Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bant â Scooter Bob i Aberystwyth!


Hey, Chris, I've been thinking...

Yeah, Scooter Bob? What about?

Well, you know, I don't want to sound ungrateful... I mean, I appreciate your letting me stay at your place for so long and keeping the fridge stocked in beer and everything... but, well, since I'm a wooden scooter I don't really drink beer. Or anything else for that matter. And I'm not really a homebody, either. I'm a travelling sort, Chris, and I'd really like to do something.

Like what, SB?

Like go somewhere. We're here in Wales, aren't there any interesting places to go?

Sure. Loads. Arguably, Wales is home to the best motorcycling roads south of Hadrian's Wall.

OK, that sounds like my sort of thing. Let's explore some of those roads!

Good idea, SB. We'll head up to Aberystwyth, about 100 miles north and west of Cardiff. Hop on the back of my V-Strom. The road to Aberystwyth takes us first through the post-industrial towns that line the Welsh Valleys. Coal, steel and all other sorts of useful things used to pour from these valleys. To a certain extent, it could be said that the Industrial Revolution started here. Certainly it could be claimed that the labour movement got its start in Wales. Legend says that the reason socialists choose to be represented by the color red comes from a blood-soaked flag that was waved during a workers' riot in Merthyr Tydfil many centuries ago.

Wow. Interesting! Why aren't we stopping to take any pictures?

Because it's depressing. There are many warm-hearted people in the Valleys, but I honestly can't understand why they stay here. I'd rather be dead than wake up every morning to find myself "living" in some of these Valleys towns.

That's pretty extreme. Ooh, where are we now?


This is Brecon Beacons National Park, one of Wales' three national parks. Not too long ago it was awarded Dark Sky status, which means it's a place to try to escape the light pollution that blights so much of the UK. Even out of the park, though, Mid and West Wales offer good stargazing. My wife and I were up here for my birthday back in March. The temperature fell below freezing but I stayed out, staring into the night sky, until I couldn't feel my toes.

The roads that curve and roll over these hills are pretty fun.

They are. Well, they are when the sun is shining, at least. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen nearly enough.

I have roots in Vancouver. Don't talk to me about rain! So tell me about Aber... uhm... What was it called?

Aberystwyth. The name means "Mouth of the River Ystwyth." Its claim to fame is that it was a popular seaside town during the Victorian age. When the weather's good it'll still draw a decent number of day visitors. As you'll see when we get there. But in modern times it has also transformed itself into being the cultural capital of the Welsh language. The bulk of Welsh-language artists and writers and such went to university here. To the extent that it's sort of a cliché.

Didn't you get a degree in Welsh, Chris?

I did. Two of them –– a bachelors and a masters. But I went to Cardiff University. I figured a big city and a big university would offer more chances to fit in. I was wrong. I didn't know at the time how much of Welsh culture is centered in Aberystwyth. I often wonder how things could have gone for me. Anyway, look, here we are. The town lets motorcycles park for free, right on the promenade.


Ha! Wow! This is so cool. There are some pretty nice bikes here. 

Yeah, it's definitely THE thing. Riders from all over the place like to make a trip here, then they'll make their way back to wherever they started by following the roads that hug the coast. It's a pretty nice way to spend a Saturday. Or you can just lounge around and talk to people about their bikes; all the riders are friendly. And because many are Welsh they will never run out of things to say.

What are all these different flags along the promenade?

Well, those are the flags of various nations that are seeking independence or, at least, some form of greater recognition from their governments. There's Brittany's flag, the Catalan flag...

The Quebec flag...

Yup. There's a fair amount of separatist sentiment here. As I say, Aberystwyth is the capital of Welsh culture and a lot of people within that culture are, or at least purport to be, in favour of leaving the United Kingdom. Further along the seafront you'll see a mural dedicated to Owain Glyndwr, who rebelled against the English crown in the 1400s. 

And what does this say?


"I ble gei di dy gludo pan fo'r haul yn suddo?" The fact that it rhymes should clue you into the fact it's a verse from a poem –– I don't know which one –– and as such, translating it is somewhat tricky because of the issue of interpretation. Roughly, I'd say it means: "Whence shall you be carried when the sun sets?"

What does that mean?

No clue. It's poetry, SB. You can interpret it to mean whatever you want it to. Welsh-language culture is stupid for poetry. They even have their own wholly unique form of it, known as cynghanedd, which manages to turn poetry into some kind of mathematical equation. I can't stand it. 


You certainly have a lot of negative things to say about Wales.

Yeah, I guess I'm pretty jaded. A lot of bad things have happened since I moved here and I guess I can't really let go of how angry and hurt I am about them.

Bad things. Like meeting your wife, Jenn?

No. That was a good thing, obviously.


Oh, so you must mean something bad like getting your motorcycle license?

Well, no, but...

Or maybe it's the free healthcare that upsets you about Wales? Or those incredible roads we took to get here? Or those dark skies you mentioned? Or this seafront? Or those mountains I can see in the distance?

OK. I get your point, SB. Want to hit the road? We can take a different route back to Cardiff.


I hate to go. It's so pretty here. The sea looks so nice. I'll bet it would have been a lot of fun to attend university here.

Maybe. Maybe. It's pretty isolated from the rest of the world; that might get lonely. But, see these houses along the seafront? A lot of that is student accommodation. Imagine being a student with that view.

Wow.

Indeed. OK, let's get rolling. If there's enough time we can stop for chocolates at a place I know in Llandeilo.

Sounds good. Hey, what's that by the roadside?


Ah, this is the "Cofiwch Dryweryn" wall. In Welsh that means "Remember Tryweryn." It's something of a rallying cry for the separatist movement. Tryweryn was a little village that the government cleared in the 1960s, then flooded the surrounding valley to create a reservoir for water to serve Liverpool. Needless to say, flooding a Welsh village to provide water for English people fuelled the separatist fire. The wall itself has earned its own kind of iconic status. Activists make sure it's repainted regularly.

You live in a place with so much beauty and unique history, Chris. You're very lucky. You really need to remember that, rather than holding onto whatever negative experiences might have happened here. 

I'm trying, Scooter Bob. I'm trying. Now hold on tight, this next section of road is pretty curvy...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Scooter Bob adventures coming soon!


Hola! Chris Cope here. Just a quick note to let you know Scooter Bob's adventures are continuing! 

I've been a victim of my own success lately and haven't had much time to show Scooter Bob around beautiful Wales. We're fixing that this week and his tales will soon be up on the site and he'll be off to his next exotic location.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Love one another

I have lived in Coventry for just over six months.

A lot of it was flattened in the war. Rather more of it was flattened in the 1970s in the name of progress. As a consequence it's not one of our more beautiful cities.

But it does have Motofest, a massive celebration of all things petrol, and an expression of love for the  city. Love in the shape of high-octane fuel and burning rubber!

Sadly, I was working at the weekend and missed most of it. Bob and I got home in time to go to Coventry cathedral for an evening service of thanksgiving for the festival and for Coventry.

I don't know Bob's views on religion and I hope taking him to a cathedral wasn't inappropriate.

Coventry has two cathedrals, a medieval one which was destroyed by bombs, and now stands as a garden of remembrance, and a modern building designed in the 1950s. The cathedral community works to build peace in the world and is a centre of reconciliation.

Motofest brought people together to celebrate some of the amazing cars (and bikes) built in Coventry.

Bob's travels, sometimes from hand to hand and sometimes with a bit of help from the postie, bring us together as friends. What a wonderful way to increase the peace in the world.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sorry, Bob!

So ScooterBob arrived in his Travelling Box, and I have had to inflict a terrible indignity upon him.

The Lomax, which is nearly a motorcycle, has once again had a spasm sufficiently serious to take it off the road. Bob was very encouraging last year when I rebuilt the heads, and he kindly refrained from pointing out on Thursday when I took him to meet the Lomax that the sensible person would have renewed the exhaust manifold studs when the heads were at Ivor Searle's Engines of Excellence having the valve seats reground.

But we don't have long together, and I couldn't leave ScooterBob at home - so he came with me and Shakey to a caravan rally.


I hope he felt at home. It was the 60th Birthday of the Northamptonshire District Association of the Camping and Caravanning Club. There were people in crocs, there was cake, there was a comedy act on in the evening, and there were lots of friends together having a good time. More entertainingly, on Saturday morning there was an irate bride who had wanted to use the beautiful field for her wedding photos and was not impressed to see it covered in caravans and motorhomes!

I explained about ScooterBob and why he was travelling the world, and they understood. I forgot to buy a pennant for his box though. I blame the cider.

To make it up to him we went to see the  memorial to Triumph's Meriden works. Next week we will go and see some more motorcycling history in the company of friends.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned

The doorbell rang and the courier stood there, holding a shoe-box size package with my name on it. I knew what was inside.

I carefully opened the box and took out the contents. It was a wooden model of a scooter. Most people would not give it a second glance, but it meant a lot to me. This had been half-way around the world and held by many people who all had one thing in common. We all liked and respected the man this model had come to represent. That man was Bob, who also went by the name of BobScoot. I am writing this on the one thing that tied all of us together, Bobs blog.

Like many, I first met Bob electronically, when he either found my own blog, or I found his. Soon, we starting reading each other’s writings and probably like many, I was drawn to not just what he wrote, but the way he wrote it. Bob poured his heart and soul into his blog. Interesting, funny, moving and always full of pictures both good and ordinary, his blog postings told us about the man, what he liked, how he felt, his travels, and of course the odd things peculiar to Bob, like his pink Crocs, plus his wish to nearly always include a picture of his feet.

Many people followed Bobs blog. He seemed to be at the centre of like-minded people who enjoyed writing about their motorcycle travels. He was the one person we all read about, as his words and pictures were eagerly read many around the world.

Bob often offered his help. I remember I was about to go on a long motorcycle trip and wanting to film and then edit some videos, then this near stranger called Bob who lived thousands of miles away in Canada, offered his advice which was very gratefully accepted. I think that was typical of the man – he helped anybody that he could. He certainly helped me on a few occasions.

Bob died nearly a year ago. It was sudden and a shock. No doubt it hit his family very hard as I think there was no clue he was ill. I remember hearing the news and sitting there numb, as a good friend had been taken from us. Bobs last post on his blog was very typical – on holiday with his wife Yvonne, he posted pictures and words about the two of them driving his Corvette around Kentucky. I really miss reading his posts.

I met Bob just once. When I rode around the USA I didn’t go near to Vancouver where Bob lived, but I regretted that and afterwards made a special trip, renting a bike in Seattle, and rode to his house. Bob and Yvonne were as kind as I had expected, showing me around, taking me to dinner, letting me stay at their house and genuinely wanting to spend some time with another road traveller. Bob did that a lot. I enjoyed reading about his meetings with other moto-bloggers all over America. Not only did Bob read others’ blogs, but he wanted to meet the people as well. What a thoroughly nice guy he was. I remember he laughed when I arrived in Vancouver wearing a copy of his trademark footwear – pink crocs. Bob and I walked around Vancouver both wearing our amusing pink crocs. I am not sure what people thought, but I can imagine!

So, in honour of the man by those that knew him, this model, appropriately called ScooterBob, has been travelling around the world and has been taken to various places to be photographed with and by the people that knew Bob. It is a terrific idea and I really enjoyed seeing the mementos that people have also placed in ScooterBob’s box.

It seemed obvious to me what picture I should include first on this posting – here I am with one of my bikes, wearing my pink crocs, of course…..
ScooterBob, just outside London
While I live near London in England, I took ScooterBob to St Tropez in France on a motorcycle trip as that seemed the right thing to do. We rode from London through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and back into France to reach the Mediterranean Sea. On the way, Sonja (who knew Bob as well as most as she also lived in Vancouver for a while) joined our group as we made our way through Germany. I had intended to post many pictures of ScooterBob in these countries, but as the title of the post says, sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned. Rather embarrassingly, I managed to accidently delete most of my photographs of the trip. Initially, I was horrified, but in hindsight, that is not a bad thing, as it has allowed me to concentrate on writing something about Bob and remember him, rather than show pictures of where ScooterBob was taken. 

So, here are just a few pictures, that don’t do justice to the Bob who took such great pictures himself. 

Bless you Bob, you are missed by many.

ScooterBob meets the Leading Ladies


ScooterBob with Sonja, myself, and some new friends.

This would have been a great picture.  Thanks to Sonja for snapping me, snapping ScooterBob

ScooterBob at the H-D rally in St Stopez, picture courtesy of Sonja 
ScooterBob is now travelling once more, on his way to Shelia.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

ἐπίλογος να σκοοτέρ bob

It had been a pleasure and privilige to have been able to host ScooterBob and knowing Gary France was keen to take him on tour to France within days I decided to take SB for a quick wizz around my hometown Knutsford prior to dispatching him to London.

Knutsford has many eclectic buildings created by Richard Harding Watt, mostly in an italianate style.  Here we see Lisa from Atlanta and Mrs Nikos posing in front of the King's Coffee House and Gaskell Memorial Tower.

Pigeons and other birds sit on the Gaskell Memorial Tower looking down on ScooterBob.
For the trainspotters out there: Knutsford is served by Knutsford railway station which is situated on the Mid-Cheshire Line running from Chester to Manchester (via Altrincham). The station was built in 1862 by the Cheshire Midland Railway. The CMR was absorbed into the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) in August 1867, this entity continuing to serve Knutsford until nationalisation on 1 January 1948. The train service to Manchester was re-routed via a slower route when the Manchester Metrolink trams took over the CLC direct line between Altrincham and Manchester, with the heavy rail service being re-routed via Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly zzzzzzzzzzz.

A touch of off roading in typical spring flowers

As you probably know, Knutsford was the place in which General George S. Patton, set up shop shortly before the Normandy invasion, and from where he delivered a speech perceived to be critical of the Soviets, and to have "slap(ped) the face of every one of the United Nations except Great Britain", which nearly ended his career.

Tatton Park, this is where I take my constitutionals. It is a large park immediately joining onto Knutsford and formerly the estate of the Egerton family with their baronial seat Tatton Hall. Shooting at harmless animals is not usually allowed here - Venison is normally available at the local Aldi supemarket.
The other side of Tatton Park is a good spot for plane spotting!
After the park we take a stroll back through the town to buy ScooterBob a farewell capucinno.

The first penny farthing museum and integral cafe - this is a where the philosophers meet hidden away in the centre of Knutsford!
I'm sure that BobSkoot would have been fascinated by these gentelmen's sporting bicycles! ScooterBob looks rather overwhelmed.
Gluten free chocolate brownie, honey cake and capucinno.
A difficult and challenging pose this, I require oxygen.
King Canute (Knútr in Old Norse) lends his name to Knutsford where he got his trousers wet in 1020 on his way to watch a home game of MU at Old Trafford (allegedly).
Well that's it from me - thanks for reading and goodbye (or is it au revoir?) ScooterBob.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

BMW Triumphant - ScooterBob goes to Yorkshire

Foreword

Bob Skoot had acquired a rather nice blue BMW R1200R and despite concerns about transmission failure had undertaken an impressive transcontinental journey.  I asked him in January 2014 how he had found the bike - he replied "My BMW R1200R is a rocket on the freeway when you need to cover many miles. Instant power anytime, and also instant brakes should you need to slow down, plus it's smaller and lighter than my Vstrom. I like the shaft drive vs Chain maintenance but it has a smaller fuel tank. My Vstrom can go much farther on a tank with 23L vs only 17L for my Beemer. That equates to 100 kms less per tank

I bought the Beemer for this trip. It also has Traction Control and Tire Pressure Senors so I though much safer for a long ride like this

Cup cakes were very good. I wouldn't mind some more, right about now . . ."


It was therefore fortuitous that ScooterBob's short time with me coincided with the Annual general meeting of the BMW  Club of United Kingdom and Ireland (this being the officially approved motorcycle club) and this  year the meeting would be held in Harrogate Yorkshire (some 100 miles over the other side of the Pennine mountain chain from Knutsford, Cheshire where I live).




I normally attend this event as my first bike tour of the year and it enables me to visit new places and meet friends whilst winding up club luddites who resist "social media". There is normally a fun event organised  - last year we visted the Metisse factory------> STORY HERE.

The journey in best British racing track tradition (northern hemisphere) was a clockwise route starting bottom left at Knutsford

I decided to take an initially north westerly route to Blackburn and cross the Pennines near Skipton thus avoiding the Friday afternoon drag through the northern powerhouse of Manchester to Leeds.  Anyhow it's always a thrill to cross the Thelwall viaduct over the Manchester Ship canal on a motorcycle in strong wind. To get back into the swing of UK motoring on densely packed motorways and twisty hill roads with straying sheep I planned this modest 200 mile mixed road circular route.



The off - Luckily I had fitted the beak extender to my BMW R1200GS and you can see the remains of last year's flies too.
No journey in England is complete without a stop at a Little Chef especially for those with bursting bladders.  I made it to Skipton OK.
Job done and afternoon tea ordered - a far flung experience from the Olympic breakfast noramlly served.

Part of the joy of writing my blog is the ancilliary research undertaken to illustrate and inform with interesting discoveries made. Whilst I was aware that  the Little Chef chain of diners has changed hands many times over the years (one change in which scramble eggs was removed from the menu) I discover it is now owned by a Kuwaiti company---------> READ THE DETAILS HERE

The proverbial selfie during the digestion of a stale scone...
Somewhere on the moors 19 miles from Harrogate there is a chance of an ice cream just as the Tomtom blew up
Further along the A59 I come to the aid of a group of cheery scooterists from Wigan - when I see the magneto in pieces I wish them well on their continuing  journey to Newcastle...
ScooterBob does some bonding with Pricey 46 and that is one hell of a starting lever!
We arrive at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate and the sun shines - the sun always seems to shine on the east of the Pennines in contrast to where I live on the west!
The club is disorganised on a regional basis, and this time it's the Yorkshire section hoisting the banner.
Last year the Tour de France cycle race came to Yorkshire as this hewn out rotten tree trunk depicts in Harrogates's beautiful Montpellier Quarter.
The daffodils are blooming marvellous(ly)!
Later that evening we inbibe at the Wintergardens which is now a Wetherspoons pub - local lass and attentive barperson Meata Baciukiewicz serves us a guest ale (can't recall what it was)
Even later that evening and miraculously back at the hotel, club president Mike poses with Scooterbob.
Mrs Mike and Cynthia (of round the world on an R80 GS fame ---> READ IT HERE) fight over ScooterBob)
Following the rather boring procedings of the AGM, Leeds man Noel Whittall gave a presentation of his various adventures ridng a 1918 Triumph H. See brief video-----> here

BobSkoot poses next to the superior to Lucas Bosch generator and I rush him away before an oil drip falls.

Bob from Belfast bought Tubby Balls formerly and briefly my BMW K (thank you Richard M) 75 - the electric screen still worked until recently

On the way home, following a drag of a journey through grim towns we hit the Peak District National Park  south of Huddersfield on route to Buxton.  Passing through Holmfirth I remember the TV series "Last of the Summer Wine".
The guys in the van had been flying model aircraft off the hills up to the point we arrived - they then brewed up in the caravan due to the sub zero wind chill!
Here we are nearly home at the Cat and Fiddle Inn - BobSkoot enjoyed my flowing cornering lines on the ubiquitous "most dangerous road" in England------>see here


This was great weekend and I can say that carrying BobSkoot with me enhanced the social interaction considerably!

In the next episode we ride Penny Farthing cycles!