Thursday 27 October 2011

100,000 and counting!


I just noticed the counter on my blog has clicked over the 100,000 hits mark.

When I started this little blog I wondered if anyone would read my stuff.  It is just about a guy travelling on a motorbike.

Many thanks to all of you that have taken to time to look at my blog and sometimes write a comment about it.  Without my readers, it wouldn’t be worthwhile doing, so a BIG THANKS to you!

Monday 17 October 2011

Adventure before Dementia

It was very foggy on Sunday morning when I awoke.

I was looking forward to joining the Chelsea and Fulham Harley Owners Group on their 'Last Gasp' ride out to the south coast. There might not be many other days this year for a long-ish ride, so I wanted to go if possible.

Hmmmnn, the thermometer showed just 4 degrees C (39F) but the forecast showed it would brighten up later. I thought of the song by The Clash, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’

If I went, I would need to wrap up to keep warm in the first part of the ride, but that would mean being too hot later. I am going on a long trip next year on my red custom bike so I wanted to take that on this days HOG ride in order to get used to riding it long distances once again, but that meant I wouldn't have anywhere to stow my gear later if I took off my cold weather riding clothes.

My decision was to go, so I tucked into a bowl of porridge, brushed my teeth, threw an extra tee shirt on and got the red bike out of the garage.

Starting the bike was a bit of an issue due to the amount of moisture in the air which meant the two huge carbs were sucking fog into the engine. It was still early and I am sure my sleeping neighbours didn't appreciate me having to crank the engine a number of times before it burst into life, with the full force of the big twin cutting through the still cold air and shattering the morning silence. I tried to ride away as quickly and as quietly as possible, but of course, those things are not mutually compatible.

I nursed a spluttering bike through the country lanes, avoiding those stupid geese from the big house that are allowed to wander freely on the road. George and Mildred as I call them, really do not like the sound of my red bike and as they often do, they charged towards me in a frantic attack to try to scare away this noisy beast that dares to come near them.

I turned onto the motorway which resulted in two things, one good and one bad. To my relief, the spluttering stopped as the engine of the bike got hotter. To my frustration, I realised the jeans I was wearing, the thin gloves and the lightweight jacket were in no way going to stop Jack Frost from attacking me. Shit, it was cold and as ever in those conditions, it was a toss-up whether to ride fast to get there quicker but definitely colder, or slow down for a longer but slightly warmer journey. I looked at my watch and realised I was late and didn't have a choice. I opened the throttle more and the 110 inch / 1800cc engine blasted me forward faster as Jack did his work.

Thirty-three cold miles later, and after stopping to fill up with fuel, I rolled late into the London based Harley-Davidson dealer, Warrs. I was greeted by a grinning Rob Warr, who repeated the often-heard mantra "No brief, no ride". I know Rob well and have ridden with him plenty of times, including in more than one country. Knowing he was joking, I ignored his comment and sought out a warming cup of coffee instead. "Too late Gary, the coffee has all gone and we are leaving in a minute". I turned around and saw about fifty bikes, their riders pulling on helmets and gloves. I groaned inwardly with the realisation I would set off with the group on a seventy mile ride without a customary warming drink first.

I enjoy these Sunday morning ride-outs. They happen about once a month and other commitments mean that I usually manage to join about two or three a year. When I go on my own rides that I plan myself, that planning is done in a lot of detail although I acknowledge this is it as a trait that some find peculiar. I think I enjoy these Warrs ride outs because I don't have to do any planning at all. As we set out and fifty Harley's were thundering through the streets of west London, it occurred to me that I wasn't even sure where we were going! I was pretty sure we were going to be heading south towards the coast somewhere, but I was happy just to tag along.

The route was mainly on back roads, little travelled by many others on a Sunday morning. We took in Box Hill, the A272, Bluebell Railway country and we crested the South Downs to be treated with glorious views of the English Channel, glistening in the October sunshine.

Box Hill is different today than when I used to go there as a young boy on a family outing. I remember my Father driving us up the hill and admiring the splendid views of the English countryside from the top. Today, we rode into the car park at the bottom of the hill which is one of southern England's most popular biker meeting places. Our fifty Harley's created quite an entrance.

When surrounded by so many bikes in a car park, I usually spend time walking around to see what is there. Today was different as I had one important mission to accomplish - getting a coffee plus a bacon and egg sandwich. Yum.

Our ride leader for the day, Andrew Papas, guided us with ease along his pre-planned route and we arrived at our destination of the Roedean Cafe overlooking the sea. The sun had burned the fog away and it had warmed up significantly by the time we were drinking our afternoon tea as we watched boats slipping in and out of the marina below us at the bottom of the cliffs.

I did chuckle at a patch I saw on a fellow rider. It sort of sums up how I feel about me motorcycling at this point in my life. Whilst I hopefully have some time to go before this particular syndrome might strike, the slogan on the patch fits well with my current frame of mind. "Adventure Before Dementia" reflects the fact that my motorcycling is an adventure I want to enjoy while I can. Who knows what the future might hold and so being in my early fifties now, I want to make the most of whatever opportunities I can. Travelling on my bike is a big part of that.

At the Roedean Cafe, many including myself didn't want to hang around for too long though. A long 100 mile ride home faced many of us and we wanted to get back before the temperature plummeted. There was just time to ride into Brighton and to snap a picture of its pier.

Back roads were mainly abandoned for the homeward ride, which I regretted. Fast roads get you there quicker but are boring and on my custom bike, make my back ache. By the time I got home, it was quite sore from sitting in the same leaning-slightly-forward position for so long.

Overall, a really enjoyable ride of just over 200 miles. It didn't take me long to fall asleep on the sofa!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Blogging from an iPad

I have discovered that yes, it is possible to write and publish posts on a blog using just an iPad plus a camera.  The post below this one (about Vincent's and Velocette's) was created entirely on my new iPad 2, but I have to say it wasn't easy as I had to do many things considerably differently than with a normal blog post from a computer and had to find a few work-arounds.

The good news is it does mean that blogging while on the road is possible if you want to leave your laptop behind. It would be a mistake however to think it is easy, because it it not.

I use Blogger so what I have written here won't apply to all systems, but for those of you thinking about getting and using an iPad for use with Blogger, then this post is for you.

The first thing you need to think about is how to get the photos from your camera onto the iPad.  There are no standard cable connections on the iPad, so you need to buy an iPad camera connection kit.

The two parts of the connection kit allow you to either connect your cameras USB cable or SD card to the iPad. I used the SD card connector and it was easy to move the pictures I wanted from the SD card onto the iPad.

Easy so far, but it  was about to become more challenging.

There are two ways of using the Blogger software on an iPad. First by using the iPad's web browser, Safari, to connect to Blogger.  Or second, to use the Blogger iPhone App.  Your will note I have said iPhone App for as yet there is no Blogger iPad App.

First I tried the main version of Blogger using Safari on my iPad and it worked reasonably well, but I couldn't work out how to incorporate pictures.  On a laptop I would simply browse the relevant drive and select the picture I want.  But an iPad doesn't work like that so another solution is needed.  I had seen that within Blogger you can link to a picture already on the web, usually on a photo uploading site like Photobucket, Picasa or Flickr.  I already had a Picasa account, so I tried that.  I couldn't get it to work and in fact I couldn't get anything to work to import my pictures into the normal web version of Blogger using Safari on my iPad. That was really dissapointing.

So, I turned to the iPhone App version of Blogger to see how well that works.  For uploading pictures, it was easy.  Sort of.  The really good thing is you can upload them directly from your iPad without the need to go through a third-party photo uploading site.  The bad news is the pictures are added to the bottom of your post but you cannot see them until you publish, which is completely ridiculous. So, I could easily upload the pictures using the Blogger iPhone App, but couldn't see them....

Okay, there is a way around that.  I imported each of my photos I wanted to use in the post I was creating into Blogger using the iPhone App, saved that as a draft, shut down the iPhone version of Blooger, then switched back to Safari and re-opened the web version of Blogger.  Opening the previously created draft, I was then able to incorporate my words and the post was nearly ready to publish.  There was however one further problem - I could now see the photos I had previously included, but those photos were not in the correct position (all at the bottom of the post) and were all too large as when I imported them via the iPhone App, there was no facility to sort them into order, or to resize them.  I therefore had to move the pictures around and resize them, but only by using HTML code which I am not very good at, but learning fast.  It is not possible to use the 'compose' view in Blogger on an iPad like it is when using Blogger online a normal computer, so HTML is the only option you have.

It was no doubt a challenge to create the post on the iPad, but at least I worked out it could be done.  It took way longer than it would normally have taken me, but it would probably become much quicker as I got more used to doing it.

What is really needed is a much better App, written specifically for iPad, that includes all the features available to normal computer users.  I can't believe that will take long to be launched and in the meantime, I will continue to use the work-arounds needed to solve the current problems.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Vincents and Velocettes at the Ace Cafe

A few of us were meant to go to to the Brightona bike meeting, but our plans were spoiled by the uncooperative weather. Early Sunday morning saw heavy rain and we just didn't feel like starting out on a 100+ mile journey when it was raining cats and dogs.

My friend Alex was keen however to get some miles put on his brand-new BMWK1600GT which was just a week old. We decided therefore to ride down to the Ace Cafe where the was a Vincent and Velocette day being held, and then on to the London Motorcycle Museum.

Waiting until the rain had passed, we set out on wet roads, with Both of us being careful - Alex was riding his new bike for the first time in the wet and I was on my red custom bike, which is not the best bike to ride on wet roads!

I did like the look of Alex's new bike....

We used both fast roads and slow, given the bikes a good workout in different conditions. The BMW was a class act at speed and obviously handled very well. It is a wide bike to ride in traffic though and lane-splitting the stationary vehicles!

Like most bikers, I love looking at old bikes, especially those that are in excellent condition. There were a few examples of great-looking Vincents and Velocettes sitting in front of the Ace....

This Vincent was a dream bike....

Beautiful engineering on the Vincent....

What a lovely pair....

And for the sidecar fans, you can drool over this.... Wouldn't it be wonderful riding this on winding country roads....

A great few hours riding and we stayed dry!

Sunday 9 October 2011

To Flickr or not to Flickr?

I seem to have been very busy recently doing, well, a wide variety of things, mainly un-related to motorcycling. Sure, I have been travelling a little, but without a motorbike. I have been helping one of my sons move into a flat and helping another with his ideas for starting a bicycle business. I have been writing my book again and my third son has been helping me with creating the maps for that. My brother and his wife have been over to see us from Switzerland, so there have been some family get-togethers. I have recently booked two motorcycle trips for next year, one predictable and the other not (which will be the subject of a separate post).

Jackie and I were meant to go to Germany to meet up with some previous work colleagues, but that had to be cancelled due to a death in my family – an Aunt that I was quite close to.

I had put off looking at and dealing with a substantial amount of paperwork and I just had to tackle it. Boring, essential, but way too time-consuming for me.

All of these things has meant I have been neglecting my own and others’ blogs recently, but I intend to begin to put that right, starting now.

I would like to ask for some advice please. Does anyone out there reading this use an iPad for their blogging?

Due to no longer wanting to carry a laptop with me on my bike trips, I have recently succumbed to the delights (jury is still out on that one) of an iPad and I am testing how to use it for my blog posts when on the road. I can see how to do most of this, but I am struggling with one aspect and it is that I want some advice on. I use Blogger and I am not going to change from that – it works for me and I follow the adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The trouble is when adding pictures to a blog post, you have to specify the location of the picture file on your computer and well, as far as I can see, you cannot do that on an iPad. So, I have looked at the other way of adding a photo to your post and that is by linking to a picture already on the web. I have never used this method, but it looks as if I will need to do so. I believe I will need to upload my photos first to something like Flickr and then link to them there.

Okay, here is the advice part....

Have I got it right about uploading to something like Flickr and then linking to the photo on there?

If I have, is Flickr the best system to use, or do my wise readers have a better solution? Any help will be greatly appreciated.