Saturday, 25 June 2011

The First Time on a Bike. How about 304 Miles?

I think 304 miles is not too bad for an eleven year old, on the back of a bike for the first time. Here is the story of how that happened.

Last week, I was in the Seattle area to collect my step-grandson, Talon, and bring him back to the UK to spend a few weeks with Jackie and I. He has been to London a few times before to see us with his parents, but at eleven years old, to do it on your own must be more fun because he didn’t mind leaving them at home at all.

The only direct flight between London-Seattle-London is British Airways and something rare happened. I got upgraded on the flight out from economy to premium economy and the two of us were upgraded to business class on the flight to London. So an eleven year old boy, gets to sleep in an airplane bed on the way to London for a few weeks. Not a bad start, I would say!

So Talon is here in London and we have been going out to see places just about every day.

A few days ago I met up with friend Ian Solley and he asked if I wanted to join him on the HOG Meridian Chapter ride called HogsLegs, in France and Belgium. I said yes and asked Talon if he wanted to come along as well. It was only going to be a single days ride, so not a problem for a young man that hadn’t been on a motorbike before. We rode down to near Ian’s house the evening before so we could be within striking distance of the Channel Tunnel as we had to get the bike and ourselves on the train very early the next morning.

We woke early at 5am and met Ian and two of his friends Paul and Simon and the five of us blasted down to Folkestone on four Harley’s where we boarded the train to Calais in France....




















You stay with your bike (or car) as the train goes through the tunnel....





















The train takes just 35 minutes to travel under the sea and we arrived in France to a glorious sunny day, making our way to a local petrol station where the riders of 50-ish bikes met and received the usual safety briefing before setting off....











Warrs Harley-Davidson have two dealerships. One is in Chelsea in London where I bought my Road King and they have another in Mottingham in South London. The Meridian Chapter is based out of the Mottingham dealership.


























The ride through France and Belgium is a gentle one, and perfect for just riding and admiring the view, with a few friends. We did about 130 miles in the two countries, stopping for morning coffee in Beruges where Ian set off on a conquest to buy cheese and wine.

We arrived in the town of Veurne in Belgium where we stopped for lunch in the town square, a picturesque quiet place, where the people of the historic town were enjoying a peaceful leisurely lunch....





















That was of course, until 50 Harley-Davidsons turned up and part-filled the town square with gleaming bikes....





















After lunch we wandered around the town, trying to find an elusive bottle of excellent wine. We found a good-looking wine shop, that was sadly closed, but I liked the scooter sitting outside....






















At the appointed hour, the riders began to re-assemble in the square, ready to resume our ride in Belgium....





















Talon next to the Leading ladies....



























The ride culminated at a place called the Bikers Loft, a bar, hotel, museum and gathering place for motorcyclists. Some of our group were going to stay the night in the sparse surroundings of the hotel, but our smaller group left early, hoping to catch a train back under the sea at a reasonable hour. We rode alongside Belgium canals, which were straight but contained few cars. Reaching the French border, we resorted to using the motorway, for a blast back to Calais and the tunnel.

On getting back to the UK, Talon and I had further to go than the others and pretty soon, they would have been home, while we carried on a long loop around London on the M25, the last hour of which was in the rain.

We arrived home late-ish, having done 304 miles in one day. Tired. Wet. Cold. But, with big smiles on our faces. Especially Talon.

12 comments:

Raftnn said...

Awesome Gary, I bet he wont be able to stop talking about that for ages. My son Nathan has done lots of miles with and just loves it. Neat read well done.

SonjaM said...

Whoot, another rider in the make! I still remember my first back seat ride, and the way it made me smile and talk about it forever. I was about seven or eight, and although it was only on a neighbor son's Honda Monkey, I still remember the fun and the thrill that came with my first two wheeled experience. Way to go, Talon!

Simon said...

Hey Gary...

Nice to meet you. Glad Talon enjoyed himself. Shame about the rain on the way home!

Looking forward to seeing pictures of Mohicans soon?!

Nice day out, even with the early start.

Hopefully see you soon, Simon

Simon said...

PS: Hope you didn't get wet in the Dartford Tunnel! ;))

Charlie6 said...

Talon is one lucky 11 year old to have a cool grand-dad like you. Oh the tales he'll tell when back in school in the Fall. Of course, had you had a sidecar rig....

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Canajun said...

What a great first ride.

bluekat said...

Awesome post Gary,
What a great trip for Talon. The smile on his face says it all!

Chris Luhman said...

Loved the photo of the town square in Belgium!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

I am astounded by the ease with which you can just hop a train with your bike, and exit in France. As for your step-grandson, I think "Talon" is a cool name. I'm sure he must have been amazed by the bike ride through Europe.

I am amazed at the following the Harley has in Europe... Leather vests and all.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

bobskoot said...

Gary:

I just rubbed my eyes again and there it was "Grandson", I did a double take. Can't believe you are a GRANDPA. You would never know it by looking at you. I wished I had a sporty Grandpa like you to show me around Europe.

Now look what you've done, Talon is going to want his own bike when he gets home

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Road Captain said...

Can you adopt me and take me around Europe on the back of your bike?

Gary France said...

Roger – Taking kids on the back of a bike is great fun. I am sure Nathan gets home at the end of a long ride tired, but with a big grin.

Sonja – I am sure your first ride shaped your future choice of transport in some way.

Simon – It was good to meet you. I took a look at your website – very neat indeed.

Charlie6 / Dom – I am sure he will have many tales to tell. Sidecar rig? Hmmmn, maybe one day but not just yet.

Canajun – For a first ride, I would agree – not bad!

Bluekat – He did eventually stop smiling.

Chris – It was fun seeing the town square full of bikes!

Jack – It took many years to build the tunnel under the sea, but now it is there it makes getting off this little island of our really easy. There is also a passenger train service (without vehicles) that can get me to Paris in France in 2 hours, 15 minutes. Harleys are nowhere near as popular as they are in the USA and are owned by a small percentage of the population, but there are hundreds of millions of people in Europe, so there are quite a few H-d’s around. In the UK there are 31 dealerships, all much smaller than the average US sized dealer.

Bob – Well, a Grandfather by marriage! Talon already has a bike – an small electric off-road bike that is actually quite cool. A few more years and maybe he will want a proper road bike. I guess it will be my fault.

Road Captain – Sure!