Normally I would greet this forecast with a sinking heart. But this weekend I am very happy about it - because I'm picking up the car, and I had confidently predicted warm sunshine, gentle zephyrs and gambolling bunnies indicating the onset of spring. I look forward to scraping the ice off my windscreen and turning the heater up to full!
Friday, 30 January 2009
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Ruby is not getting her birthday present. A letter arrived last night from the solicitors advising that the seller has changed his mind and has decided to hang on to his garage after all. In all honesty, this has not come as a complete surprise, it being difficult to imagine how it can take 8 weeks to do the paperwork for a £6,000 transaction. But I am more than a little peeved at being asked to pay £120 for the privilege of being stiffed.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
don't think it's funny! The application of Dr Beecham's powders has failed to stem the flood, and, in the absence of a small dutch boy to put a finger in the dyke, I am forced to ride looking like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. The ancient Romans invented the Sponge on a Stick to use during their communal ablutions and it is abundantly clear to me that Touratech need to turn their Teutonic imaginations to something similar that can reach up inside a helmet and let me blow my nose. Athlete-style pinching between fingers is a desperate half-measure, but after my adventures with fuel cans last week the tips of my gloves are covered with petrol. Petroleum Jelly may be a popular skin defender but in unleaded form it's just painful.
I read somewhere that the cold virus doesn't like extremes of temperature, a fact which I held onto as consolation while having to ride in the sub-zero dawn with my visor open (yes, the special BMW Insta-fog coating is still working well). Didn't help - clearly I have the polar bear of viruses which sticks its purple tongue out at minus 0.5 and takes shelter in my sinuses. Keep your fingers crossed for me that when I get back to Ruby this evening my helmet will still fit.....
Posted by Highwaylass at 08:56 PERMALINK
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Eight wheels in my garage, to keep me rolling along....I'm still not sure if this is the right choice. On Friday morning, it certainly felt like a good idea. Having a flat in the eaves of my building I get an aural preview of the weather before I open my eyes. Friday morning sounded like the kind of weather that wasn't worth opening an eye for. But my desire to stay under the warm duvet was outbid by my need for a cup of coffee, so while the kettle boiled I tried to feel good about the fact that it wasn't actually snowing, just sleeting down: lukewarm optimism soon overwhelmed by the realisation that my helmet hadn't dried out from the last soaking (I laughed when I got a 36-page instruction book with it, but looking at a post on UKGser which recommended shutting the top vent in the rain, the joke rests on me - there's a top vent?)so as soon as I put it on the visor fogged up (again). I suppose it helps keep the speed down....
By Friday night I was changing my mind again. The rain had cleared, the sun hadn't quite gone down, but the temperature had. Cold I can now cope with, thanks to my Klan vest, and I remembered the new back route to the motorway from Wednesday's trip, so I felt a bit smug as the 2-hour ride home unrolled under the clear skies to a random show-tune playing in my head. A car would have been a little bit warmer but I wouldn't have felt impromptu joy in the starlight.
Anyway - it's all academic, I have decided to forge ahead and am soon to be the second owner of a navy blue Vauxhall Agila (nice picture above). The biking gods smile upon this transaction - the salesman pulled into his usual test-drive hand-over spot, the sugar factory car park, to find himself in the middle of a MAG rally. (We didn't get a badge.)
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Still pondering this car business. Yesterday I had to ride 100 miles to a meeting, with the added responsibility of taking a colleague pillion. It was a bright frosty morning and I wasn’t too worried until, at the last corner before the office, Ruby gave a little shimmy on the ice – anxieties further compounded by the sight of said colleague sliding down the glazed car park with the gusto of a schoolboy (and the balance and grace of Cedric the snowboarding instructor. Git.) Apart from the ice, and the sub-zero temperatures, and the low sun making it impossible to read signs, and the satnav directing me to an entirely different destination, it was a perfect day for a ride – but there weren’t many others braving it, and I did wonder about the madness of piling along the M6, squishy bodies wrapped up in thermals and Kevlar and Goretex, pretending that we were safe. In the evening, it warmed up but bucketed with rain instead, and didn’t stop until lunchtime today, making this morning one of those rides that makes you wish Bob Heath made anti-fog inserts for spectacles as well as visors. Putting my lid on before leaving the house didn’t stop the fog, and I struggled to see the cars in front as well as the colour of the traffic lights. For the first few corners, I thought, maybe I am insane. In London I didn’t ride every day, I got the bus or the tube and rode when it was appropriate. Maybe I need a car to use when the weather is like this. Then I got to the back of the 2-mile queue for the lights, which, despite the requirement for observing the single whites which the council have helpfully put down the middle of the road, was a matter of about 3 minutes work, and then I got to the other big queue at the roundabout where the traffic flows have gone screwy and the cars turning into the minor road manage to halt the dual carriageway – and that queue took about 4 minutes, despite the best efforts of Mr Audi to get in the way. Have some pity on a day like today! I am quite mad enough to get soaked and have a helmet that stinks of highway, so who knows what I might do if thwarted ;)
If I had a car, I would be warm and dry – and still waiting to get across the lights. You buys your Gore-Tex and takes your choice….
PS Tomorrow the forecast is for snow.
Monday, 19 January 2009
Having filled up earlier this evening with 19.5 litres, the yellow low-fuel triangle is now glowing at me. I'm hoping that this topsy-turvy approach doesn't extend to seeking to ride shiny-side down: a hope which reached its most fervent expression at about 9.30am this morning when the reason for the sign which says "when flooded, ford may be impassable," (hitherto regarded by me as a quaint provincial ornament), was in full, brown, frothy spate. I eyed it nervously and the man in the bathstore van on the other side flashed his lights enticingly. Reasoning that, as a plumber, he might be good at rescuing things which float off, I gave it cautious welly and emerged on the far side with wet knees and a sense of achievement. Thus disproving the belief that today is the most depressing day of th year. Sign me up to the Optimists Society!
Posted by Highwaylass at 22:36 PERMALINK
Saturday, 17 January 2009
*I wrote this for the Telegraph on Friday but they don't seem to want it, so in the spirit of recycling, I offer it again!
Hush, Hush, whisper who dares
Highwaylass is looking at CARS
London gets a lot of stick for being a fetid Great Wen, stinking and swarming on the banks of the Thames, but since moving out it's become clear to me that it's actually the paradigm of car-free living. The only uses for a car in London are trips to IKEA and being the presenting issue for fights with the neighbours - much safer to argue over the parking space than the thousand other petty resentments caused by close-proximity living. But I no longer live "well-placed for the cafe society of North London" and it seems that everyday life in the provinces is predicated on the possession of 4 wheels.
I don't want to be a car driver. It is not my idiom. I don't have a subtle appreciation of the different levels of trim, nor for the benefits of alloy wheels over the ones that just come attached. I also have a pathological dislike for sitting in queues. People come to riding for many different reasons, and that's mine.
But needs must, and if I want to survive the winter and get to the fitness class I have my eye on (and yes, the irony of buying a car so that I can drive somewhere to exercise has not passed me by) I am going to have to start scanning the classifieds.
But what to buy? My biggest fear is that I will come to love the comfort and convenience of a car more than I love being frozen and buffeted on the back of Ruby. So I need something that's not too opulent. And as Clint Eastwood says, "A man's got to know his limitations." I have a heavy right foot and no self-control, so it needs to go not much faster than 70.
I don't want something that needs constant polishing, And I like to be able to fix it with 2 spanners and a mallet.
Suggestions gratefully received!
Friday, 16 January 2009
Posted by Highwaylass at 16:50 PERMALINK
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
My Christmas visit to the camping shop played its usual trick on me. We only went in to buy a thermos mug for a friend who has taken to the life less insulated, but merino base layers were half price – until I got to the till, when it turned out that only bottom halves were reduced and my carefully chosen gender-specific pink hoodie was full price. And how did the MSR mug, dinky coffee maker and extra-gnarly tent pegs get into my shopping bag? Credit card whimpering slightly, I returned to the Christmas festivities rather poorer but smug in the knowledge that, come the resumption of my car-free commute, I would laugh in the face of windchill and be snug as a mug in a rug.
Monday morning dark and early I wrapped myself in 100% wool and loaded up Ruby’s panniers, ready to plug in the satnav and the heated vest and head off to work. Just one challenge – the 200 yards of ice between me and the main road. I won round one - big handful of throttle (fuel pump pretending to be frozen again) plus BMW torque reaction plus lack of traction between army boot and tarmac nearly – but not quite – put me flat on my warm, woolly arse. But the weather won round two. I couldn’t get any grip on my boots to push Ruby round and out onto the road. The journey of a hundred miles stopped by a single slip.
Friday, 2 January 2009
Regular visitors will know the depth of my passion for washing motorcycles. But I am told it is important to spring clean at new year. So I grit my teeth, fill two buckets (for I have 2 bikes to wash), put on my thermal base layer and hum a small tune:
Maybe I didn't clean you quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn't you scrub you, quite as often as I could have
Little parts I should've sponged and dried, I just never took the time
You were slowly growing slime,
You were slowly growing slime.
I remain puzzled by BMW design decisions. The drain hole in the tray under the tool kit - which holds a set of fuses and some wires - is in the middle, not the lowest point when the bike is on its side stand. So at least 2 inches of water can gather before escaping, sending the fuse box the same way as the fuel pump. The lack of a hugger means the whole underneath of the bike is covered in sludge, which is climbing through all the nooks and crannies towards the light...
I thought the GS was a rugged outdoors sort of bike, but I fear it is actually a lifestyle machine for people who also own pressure washers and a warm dry place to park. If I had wanted a motorcycle which required cleaning after every ride, I'd have bought a Harley.
On the plus side, PB helped me fit the Touratech canbus cable for the satnav, so now I can be warm *and* know where I'm going.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Happy New Year! It's the holidays so it must be time to watch The Great Escape. Steve McQueen has just acquired his motorcycle by stretching wire across the road and downing a Nazi despatch rider. Unlike my unplanned bike/tarmac interactions, Steve's bike seeems to keep all its pointy bits and remain rideable. Maybe they built them more robustly in 1944...
Steve McQueen, on his Triumph, heading for the border, is such an iconic image of motorcycling, but it's a bit of a mixed message when you think about it - middle aged man finds motorcycle provides an illusory sense of freedom...
I like the way he pats the bike's tank after crashing it into the wire - an apology for asking it to do more than it could.