Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Air Filter Update

Ross has sorted out a cool design for the new air filter, which I am now going to get fabricated as a mock up for one of the new bikes.
I can even have the logo incorporated - very neat.

Art Update

Andy has finished the painting of the Macbeth Bobber - looking forwards to putting the original on the wall.

Check out his work at

The Final Build starts....

well its all started properly now that the frame is back from powder - the engine and gearbox are in and away we go.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

June and summer is here

Well back from a superb road trip to the states - some great riding around Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee - check out the full story on bluesmokey. Here is a video strapped to the crash bar of my Streetglide going around the mountains

Now back to the serious business of getting these three bikes built this year.
  1. Bike No.4 - King of Infinite Space - all the frame and stuff is back from powder and looking very cool in pigeon blue. Its now at Richard's ready to start the final assembly. The tank and fenders are at Image Design being painted and should be back in the next few weeks. The saddle is with Dianne for covering.
  2. Bike No.5 - is with Dave building the metal work and will hopefully be finished at the end of the month ready for powder and paint.
  3. Bike No.6 - I am having a major re-think about this one and want to make it into a type of cafe racer - lets see how it goes.
More news and some pics next week

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The final route

Is roughly as shown on this map - there are a few errors down to so many amendments to the Google maps page the most notable being we rode skyline drive back as well - but its roughly there.  At the bottom is a google street view of one of my favourite parts the Jeb Stuart Highway 58 out of Tennessee into Virginia - a superb twisty!

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Monday, 8 June 2009

The end of the road

Well all good things have to come to an end some time and today was the final day of our tour. And what a day it was - the 105 miles of the Skyline Drive in glorious sunshine (as opposed to the thick fog of the previous attempt). Some of the most stunning scenery you could wish for and all viewed from the seat of a Harley - this is what these great clunking lumps of steel are made for - cruising through the long and winding roads of the US with your buddies.

We have met some great folk along the way, but the couple that we bumped into at one of the viewing points on the Skyline Drive were the best - the elderly bikes had brought their small chihuahua (Gabrielle) out for a ride, complete with doggy crash helmet and goggles! What a pair  of nutters - they had been at a Veterans' ride out at the weekend and taken their other dog with them dressed up as General Patten. Don't you just love the Americans?!

The end of the Skyline Drive also spelt the end of the ride and the parting of the ways as Al headed off to see his family in Virginia, Roger and Paul headed back up towards Vermont, Brian headed off back to New Jersey and Tim, Ian and I headed for Dulles airport (where as luck would have it, a complimentary upgrade awaited us - result!). There was hardly a dry eye in the house as hugs were dispensed, backs were slapped and the magnificent seven went their separate ways.

It was left to Al to have the final word (funny that...!) Or two words, to be precise.

"Nova Scotia".........

Now there's a thought.

Here are the boys in action.........

Riding the skyline drive

The second time around it was a spectacular ride all 105 miles in bright sunshine and around 80 degrees F - Roger saw a 300lb Brown Bear - although annoyingly we did not - i also saw a large brown Hawk swoop dow in front of me.  Its up there as one of my top rides in the US, with the Pacific Coast Highway, Key West and the Painted Desert National Park.

Click on the images to get the full view

And now the end is near....

A few thick heads this morning after last night's farewell dinner. To continue the surreal theme of the trip we ate in an Outback Steakhouse (Aussie themed restaurant in the middle of Virginia) and watched the basketball play offs between LA and Orlando on the TV.

Paul had his last martini of the trip. And it tasted so good that he had another. And another. And another, before falling asleep next to the authentic gas powered coal effect campfire in the hotel courtyard. Paul is a martini connoisseur and has educated several barmen along the road on how to mix a perfect martini. Paul is a realtor (trans. Estate Agent) from Vermont and good buddy of Roger's and a really nice bloke. He rides a Road King and has the most waterproof waterproofs of us all (Ian - in that subtle way of his - asked him if he was planning on going on a fishing trip when he first put them on on the first day).

Earlier, Ian was proud of the fact that he had correctly identified the hotel receptionist's accent as being from Virginia on the basis that she sounded like Agent Starling from Silence of the Lambs (here's a clue, Ian - we are in Virginia). He was disappointed that Pam (said receptionist) was unable to place his accent as being from Ramsgate, but perhaps one day Jodie Foster will do a movie where she has to learn how to speak like Ian!

Right - time to saddle up and ship 'em out.

Wrap up and SWOT analysis to follow later today......

Last Day

Today is our last day and the weather looks glorious. We are going to re-ride the Skyline Drive, 105 miles along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains reaching nearly 4000 ft - if its clear the views will be spectacular. From there onto Winchester to the HD dealer to get my second HD T Shirt (that I will never wear), and then about 40 miles to the bike drop off in Chantilly - taxi to the airport and home.

A great trip and we are all looking forwards to this last day,

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Blue Plum

One of the joys of these trips is stumbling upon unexpected jewels like Johnson City. We only stopped at Johnson because of the rejigged schedule caused by Friday's rain, but what a great place it turned out to be, mainly because we happened to visit on the Saturday night of the annual Blue Plum Bluegrass festival. Bluegrass music is a cross between country and rockabilly music featuring guitars, mandolins, banjos, double basses and violins. The whole of Johnson had been pedestrianised for the event and there were live music stages set up at each end of the main street. And the place was rocking! There were arts and craft stalls, food stalls, corn sack throwing areas and lots of beer. We found a great little restaurant and had some creole type food and did a lot of people watching. A great night. And as a tribute to Timbo (in bed with flu still) the final band did a Blue Grass version of the Who's Baba O'Reilly - superb.

Today's ride (300 miles) was the sort of ride that epitomises these trips - bright sunshine, wide open empty roads, breathtaking scenery and lots of banter and camaraderie. The group has really bonded and it will be very sad when we all head our separate ways tomorrow afternoon.
But that is tomorrow and we still have our last night and Brian's birthday to celebrate. We are staying at the very nice shiny and new Marriott Residences in Staunton Virginia. Each room has a microwave, hob and dishwasher. Thank goodness we weren't staying here on Thursday night - heaven knows what ways Brian would have found to dry clothes with all that equipment!

It has been a great day and we have another in store tomorrow - but first some beer, methinks.....

Pink Cadillac

At the Pink Cadillac diner on Route 11 which is a tribute to Elvis as
he stopped here once - greater tourist attractions have been built on
a lot less in the USA. But its just perfect for us.

Tim is feeling better!

We ate in Wendys for a pit stop about halfway to our hotel so another
140 miles to go.
We have had a great morning; riding through the Cherokee and Mount
Rodgers national parks - superb scenery and it's 82 degrees.

It doesn't get much better than that.

The shark

Introducing Brian. Brian is 51 tomorrow. He has a tyre (or in American "tire') business in Ridgewood New Jersey. He is a great guy. When the fire trucks turned up to the Country Inn in Asheville the immediate suspect was Brian. He was seen the previous afternoon checking out the fire escapes "just in case". When we got soaked in the rain on the first day, Brian shared a handy hint with the rest of us which was how to make your hotel room closet into a drying room using the hotel's hair drier and the standard issue bible. He also shared with us his secret of how to change the temperature of a hotel swimming pool using a wire coat hanger.
Brian has a kind of adult ADD. He cannot sit still. When we stopped for a breather after completing the Tail of the Dragon, Brian disappeared. And then reappeared on a rock face opposite where we had stopped. He was "looking for critters".
When challenged on his inability to remain seated for more than a few seconds, Brian responded that he is like a shark. If he stops, he dies.
Brian is mad, but he is a great guy and this trip would be much the worse without him.

Our pool is not even half empty

Still we are off out to the bluegrass festival in town - I am sure we
will hear the theme from Deliverance a few times! 

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Feeling hot....

After yesterday's rest day everyone was up at 7 am ready and raring to go for the eagerly anticipated rider to the Tail of the Dragon. Everyone, that is except Timbo who had evidently caught swine flu at the Mexican restaurant yesterday and was feeling unwell. To add to his misery I had accidentally shut his fingers in the door of the taxi on the way back from the pizza restaurant the previous evening, so a trip up and down the corkscrew that is the Tail of the Dragon was not really on the cards. So Tim went the direct route up the Interstate while we set off on a 300 mile loop round the Smoky Mountains.

Truth to be told, the Tail of the Dragon was a bit of a let down. Some selfish person had fallen off half way up so our death defying slalom round the 300+ bends in 11 miles was more of a funeral cortege behind the ambulance which was taking the hapless casualty off the mountain.

Still - we rallied. The sunshine and the scenery were fabulous and we wound our way through some beautiful Tennessee countryside on our route up to Johnson City.

It is a strange part of the world, this. Some of the most beautiful landscape you could ever hope to see, interspersed with some of the most vile, ugly and vulgar places on earth. I am of course referring to Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, the world's only theme park devoted to the unfeasibly large breasted chanteuse herself, Dolly Parton. What a dump. It is a bit like someone (probably that bloke who bought the old London Bridge and transported it to the Arizona desert) had tranplanted Blackpool pleasure beach to the middle of the Smoky Moutains National Park. But it was heaving with cars and people driving from tacky amusement park to tacky amusement park. Bizarre.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Johnson City early evening. After a long hot day, Al was looking forward to a dip in the hotel pool, so imagine his disappointment when the young man behind the desk told him that the pool was closed for maintenance. He couldn't believe it and stood there "oh man" ing and pacing back and forth until eventually he leaned across the desk and said to the guy "is Mr Hampton in"? He then dissolved in laughter. What a guy.

We're off for some Bluegrass and pasta.

Almost at Johnson city

It's a tradition on these rides to stop for an afternoon ice cream -
so here we are and it's for sale but they opened up especially for us!

I had a diet coke.

Fire at hotel

We left tim tucked up in bed with the flu and he just sent this
picture with a brief message about a fire!

Tail of the dragon

Beautiful day and scenery and a very slow ride down the tail of the
dragon as we followed an ambulance down carrying a road casualty !!

A bad days bike riding......

...... But not today - it's just fantastic

Off we go the tail of the dragon.
Unfortunately tim is I'll so won't be joining us but will catch up in
Johnson city tonight.

An evening in Asheville

Well it was fun we went to the Beer Garden a beer speciality pub that
seems to have been created from a disused shopping mall and had a
selection of beers.
Then onto the Mellow Mushroom for pizza - I created my own but wished
I hadn't.
Tomorrow - full on riding.
Can't wait.

Ian Solley

Friday, 5 June 2009


Was at Papa and Beer, a nice mexican place where we ate outside then after we rode upto a Harley dealer to buy a T shirt.

Today's ride

Has been a good one, and at only 150 miles pretty easy. We went through
Blowing Rock park past Grandfather Mountain then took the 221 south
through some nice country before heading upto Asheville.

Wet weather clothes off

It's dry - it's 75 degrees and we are hoping to be going up to Mount Mitchell and then onto Asheville - a superb ride today so far.


Today a short run to Asheville, as it's going to be glorious weather
tomorrow, but not so good today as you can see from this picture of our Holiday Inn in Boone.


It may have looked like yesterday was a total washout, but I thought I
would do a blog on some of the good moments.

1 We met a real park ranger with a wide brimmed hat.

2 Iain and I also saw a medium sized rodent which some people at the
bar said could be a woodchuck or a groundhog - I think it was a raccoon.

3 We saw loads of deer by the road too.

4 The ride down the mountains was fun and dry and we ended up in
Vesuvius a backwoods Virginia town.

5 We ate at Gerties which is a country store and an American
institution it will provide all the needs for the local community - I
stopped in a few of these on route 66. The thickest hillbilly accents
ever, but nice people.

6 After the rain on the motorway we had a great 50mile dry ride
through the North Carolina countryside where they seem to grow
mostly perfect sized and shaped Christmas trees.

7 Going over to Ruby Tuesday a lively bar restaurant where all seven
of us sat at the long bar having a drink and some very good food. But
most importantly having a great chat about the ride that day. This is Kelly who was our waitress.


Having spent most of the day drowning in rainwater, we have now found
an agreeable bar right opposite our hotel where we are now drowning in

A long and winding road

There used to be a Japanese game show on TV called "Endurance" in which young Japanese men endured a series of inhumane physical challenges, such as bathing in tubs of insects or hanging upside down over a cesspit. And today was a bit like that, really!

We started full of optimisn at 8.30 am and headed up to the entrance to Skyline Drive, a 120 mile road which runs along the top of the ridge that is the Shenandoah National Park. Unfortunately, the storm which had arrived last night had decided to linger and a large cloud descended over the mountain meaning that we could hardly see the bike in front let alone the famed vistas and panoramas referred to in the guide books. For mile on mile of twisting road, our view was the tail light of Roger's bike or the odd deer (why do deer stand in the middle of the road causing danger to life and limb when there are literally millions of acres of prime woodland where they could stand and be much safer)?

We decided after 5 hours of this to descend to the Interstate and continue our journey at speed and in clear visbility. A good plan - until the heavens opened. If, like the poor hapless contestants in Endurance, you have ever had a jet wash trained on your face for 45 minutes at full power, you will know what it is like to ride at 60mph in driving rain wearing an open faced helmet. I am sure that my pores are all the better for it but it is not a pleasant experience. For mile upon mile we rode through the storm. Roger assured us that our destination was about 30 miles away. He missed off the hundred, unfortunately.

The golfers among you will know that sometimes 17 holes of dross can be forgotten after a drive, dead approach and tap in on the 18th, and motorbike rides can be similar - hours of misery can disappear as the sun comes out for the last 20 miles as you cruise to your overnight stop. Well today that didn't happen. To use the golfing analogy, we scuffed the drive just short of the ladies tee and then hacked our way through knee high rough all the way up to the green, finishing with an ugly 3 putt as the heavens opened again with a biblical vengeance as we limped, bedraggled into Boone (although to be fair the Holiday Inn Express is a step up from last night's Super 8 Motel (which can best be described as a Travelodge without the finery)).

In all we did 370 miles today which, in all honesty, was about 120 miles too many. However, we had a great meal and some great margheritas in the bar across the road. Al described today as "the worst day of his life", which was probably a bit of an overreaction, but I can see where he is coming from.

Tomorrow will be much more relaxed......

A bad day on a motorbike is better than a great day at the office

This is an old biking saying and it was tested to the limits today.
We started off on the 105 mile skyline drive which averages over 3000
ft above sea level and is supposed to be amazing. Well it was a low
cloud day and it was all we could to to see the tail light in front
let alone a view. And riding a twisty road all that way with misted
glasses is not a joke.
Still we made it and had some lunch in a redneck country store some
BBQ pork and chips.
Roger then said it was about 40 miles to our hotel in Boone NC but it
turned out to be about 200 and this leg of the journey was in
torrential rain - but these things happen and it was a great experience. We have just arrived at the hotel and it's
8.30 pm - I really need a drink.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Gay twins

A bit of history

Front Royal has been around since 1789 and was the scene of a battle
in the civil war when Stonewall Jackson beat the Unionists here in May

The weather is grey and rain is predicted but it will not spoil our day!

Deans Steak House

Be warned they do not have bars in the state of Virginia only

So off we went to Deans for a nice steak and chips washed down with
some yeungling beer. Whilst we were there a tornado warning came on
the tv and it started seriously thundering down. So after the meal
dressed in bin liners we made our way back to the motel for an early
night. Class.
It's 8.30 and I am ready for bed.

Tomorrow we hit the blue ridge skyway

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


"...there are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how..."

I chose to watch Living With Lions on the plane. It's the story of the 1997 British Lions tour of South Africa (that's rugby, for those who don't know). There is a great scene where after their first tour victory the team is in a bar in Cape Town having a few beers and singing Wonderwall by Oasis. Gets the hairs up on the back of your neck (even Tim's number 2 I would imagine).

So we rock up to Eagle Rider near the airport and are on the road within 20 minutes. Ian and I are on Glides and Tim is on a Road King. It is very hot (in fact 91 degrees when we reached Front Royal at around 4.30 local time). We decided to take the scenic route avoiding the Interstate and wind our way through some fabulous scenery towards the Shenandoah river valley. After about 20 miles the heavens opened and we got caught in a short but refreshing downpour. Having taken shelter in a petrol station we set out again. Ian and I have radios on our bikes and we are tuned to the same station. As we crest a hill, a rainbow appears to our left, the mountains ahead and rolling green pastures to our right. And onto the radio comes Wonderwall. So we spent 4 minutes cruising through the Viriginia countryside singing Oasis at the top of our voices. Surreal!

Al and his homies have just arrived. Roger, from last year is with him. The two others are Paul and Brian. Paul is from where Al used to live in New Jersey and Brian is from where he now lives in Vermont (I think, or it could be the other way round - we will know by the end of this evening I am sure). Bear hugs and handshakes all round. I have sent Tim back to his room to change as he is dressed in exactly the same clothes as me.

We're off to find steak and beer. I have a feeling that we will be successful.

G'night Jim Bob....

Super 8 motel Front Royal

Well we are all here on stop 1 and are now joined by Al, Roger and two
of their friends Paul and Brian


Superb and I have exactly the same bike as my one at home.

Front royal here we come

The Flight

Well halfway into the flight and it's going ok. We had two pints of
guiness before we took off and then a couple of red wines with lunch -
a not unappealing chicken pasta.
I watched "Watchmen" and have now made a playlist from a selection by
joy division 10 cc supertramp radiohead and take that.
We are three hours thirty to Dulles.
Premium economy is perfect.

Terminal 5

Well here we are at terminal 5 with two hours to kill before we fly out.
Time for a drink!

Monday, 1 June 2009

A bit of background

Ian, Tim and I have known each other since our kids were at school together.  Someone had the bright idea of getting all the dads together for a drink one Friday evening and every first Friday of the month a gathering (of varying numbers) takes place.  The First Friday Chapter has various sub groups - skiing, golf, motorsports and now motorcycling.

Ian and I did our first trip together about 6 years ago when we rode to the South of France for the European HOG Rally in St Tropez.  I was on my Ducati ST3 (pictured) and Ian was on his Centenary edition Fat Boy (now unrecognisable and in different ownership).   Since then we have ridden together on trips to Las Vegas,  Florida and New England (and Ian has ridden Route 66 and a few European rides).

Feeling left out and slightly gay, Tim (in an act of alcoholic bravado on New Year's Eve 2007) accepted a challenge to learn to ride a bike (from scratch) and to join us on our trip to New England in May 2008.  Against everyone's expectations he did it and he, Paul Martin (another FFC stalwart and a bit of a nutter) and I joined Ian in Boston (he had flown back from LA after riding Route 66) for last year's trip.  

Our riding companions were Al Bellino (a very longstanding (I am not allowed to say "old") friend and former colleague (from Bankers Trust days) of my Dad, who I have known for about 30 years - far right in the Ben & Jerry's line up) and his two pals Roger and Guy.  Together the seven of us covered around 1300 miles over four days through the spectacular scenery of Vermont, New York State, New Hampshire and Massachussetts. We had a fantastic time and vowed to return this year, a trip which is now just over a day away.  Sadly Guy can't join us as his granddaughter is unwell (we will miss you Guy) but the US team is bolstered by some more Silver Surfers, who we are very much looking forward to meeting (biogs to follow).

Preparations are done.  Tim announced this morning that he is going to have a "number 2" to avoid embarrassing "helmet hair" which we eventually worked out as being that he is going to have a short haircut.  The weather forecast is for pretty much non-stop rain, but we are just assuming that Michael Fish has got himself a job Stateside and are packing shorts, tee shirts and flip flops.

So now a long flight (no booze as we are picking up the bikes when we land - how will we cope?!) and a 60 mile ride await us before we join up with the Yanks in Front Royal on Wednesday evening.

Nearly Ready to Go

The home team this year is me, Iain Thomas and Tim Harvey, and we will be meeting a bunch of guys (up to 5 more) from New England in Front Royal Virginia when we get there including Al and Roger who we all rode with last year on our New England Tour
The route will all be sorted out for us by Al, and will roughly be as shown on the map below. 

We arrive Weds evening and will be departing on Monday night - two of the highlights will be riding the Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway.

View Larger Map