Tuesday, 21 June 2011

If I knew then what I knew now... (Scott)

There is an old Faces track I like to use for conference final slide shows, Ooh La La (http://tinyurl.com/5r77l2l) which has the great line: "If I knew then what I know now" which is a good start to this final tale of naivety, near misses and boys own adventure.

So here goes.

SatNav is a good idea in larger towns. It's not just the losing time but the frustration which saps your will to live.
Rotterdam for example was truly awful both times. Apparently when lost Tim says even with a full face helmet I look grumpy and pissed off. Too right, it's an arse of a place to navigate. Maps strapped on the front rack are fine, but with a Vespa you end up having to switch off the engine as the vibrations at idle make it hard to read, so stopping every five minutes, off with the engine and gloves, 5 mins to find yourself, and then repeat is strength sapping.

An iPhone should never be used with international data roaming with Google maps. Hello £20... Good bye £20. We were a little lost in Parma (of the ham fame) so I quickly checked where we were, and how to get back on to our road. 4 minutes, tops. O2 are (or really remain) thieving bastards.

Pack wisely. We bought half of Halfords with us, which I don't regret. But we also bought too much security equipment, about 4kg worth each) which we could have left behind. I think I packed rather well the with rest of the equipment, but probably could have taken out 4 kgs of SLR camera and accessories. To get a camera out of your waterprood kit bag just takes too long to unstrap remove, take and then stow again. I needed just something small like a Canon Powershot G12 (http://tinyurl.com/5rvy25q) which has SLR control but in a compact factor which can fit inside your jacket.
Shame, we saw some awesome stuff, and the iPhones just didn't cut the mustard.

Get more than one pair of gloves, or silk glove liners. Tim had a pair of the black murderers' silk gloves on inside his motorcycle ones, which helped slide on his gloves beautifully. Mine were just normal winter gloves which officially stink now. They got so sweaty I couldn't get them on without a struggle at each stop. Vented summer gloves are a good idea too. If it had been cold and raining, which was entirely on the cards, my gloves would have been perfect. It wasn't and they sucked. Two pairs is best. I got some summer weight Bering ones since getting back, and they are lovely, but the vibrations are much worse on the hands, so taking two sets would have been better.

Remember the old project management rule of thumb. Work out how long and how much as accurately as you can, and then double the time figure and add half again to the cost, and you'll be on time and under budget. Hook of Holland to Dusseldorf in 12 hours, without SatNav, was a haul. We wasted at least 2 hours with not knowing where the hell we were. If we had any mechanical mishaps we would have been in big trouble. We should have allowed at least 2 days.

Pick your companions wisely (bromance alert!) Tim and I were a great pair, and managed to buoy each other when under stress or nervous. It's hard to know until your on the road, but I was very lucky with Tim. He might say otherwise especially with my snoring. At least when we go to India we will be able to afford separate rooms. One thing I was very sure from the start, was that if everything did go seriously tits-up for one or both of us, we would have been able to make a plan somehow.

Love your machine. I was quite taken with the PX at the start of the trip, and absolutely smitten by the end. If you start hating the equipment, it turns into a grudge match. 

Mirrors in cars and on bikes in Genoa are only to be used for personal grooming. They aren't looking for you. Stay clear!

Life in the slow lane is sometimes just rather lovely. Riding down through a stunning gorge at 70 kmh instead of 120kmh in a car is awesome, you see much more.

All the hand-wringing and soul searching we did prior to departure was of some use (though we sounded like a pair of moaning minnies) we had put quite a lot of thought into the trip and prepared quite well, we treated the journey as something which could go quite badly, but we had explored a lot of possibilities and I think put us on a good footing.

Don't be a dick and run out of fuel, if you are getting down on juice, and pass a town which is 200m in from the main road, drive in and refuel. I was lucky to run out on the forecourt of a gas station, but it was stupid and could have cost us an hour very easily if Tim had to go and get some petrol for me. And it would have pissed him off too I imagine.

Don't rely on credit cards, the petrol stations in Holland and Italy didn't like Johnny Foreigner Visa cards.

Try and have fun. It's all great in retrospect. The last hour of getting into Dusseldorf and nearly missing the train was truly awful at the time. Great now. Sometimes you are riding along, your hands are sweaty, your bum is numb, the other drivers are sub-moronic and your stress level is through the roof, however all of a sudden you remember that you are riding a Vespa to Italy, another PX rider waves as he comes past the other way, and you remember how awesome it is to be you at that moment. 

And finally. Beware. Be very aware that any trip like this is only going to make you want to do more. In New Zealand we call it itchy feet syndrome. You have to get out there again, soon. I do about 100miles a week round London. That's rubbish, I want an adventure. We went to a Classic Car & Bike show on the weekend, and I saw a couple of Royal Enfields. I am sold on them, and the trip to India  to Chennai and Pondicherry can't come soon enough. I'm back to studying the highway code and doing mock tests for my full bike licence (and having L plates still on is rubbish!) 

Thank you all for listening. Thanks to all the lovely people that we met, our bunk-mates on the Auto Sleeper, and everyone else that made this trip so awesome. And happy travels. If you have a scooter trip blog let us know and we'll add a link to it on this blog for you. Just go out and do it, and make sure you blog about it... soon!

Scott

Monday, 25 April 2011

Thank you (Tim )

Ive been home for 4 days now, and I still wish I was buzzing around the dykes of Holland but alas I must face the fact that this particular trip has come to an end.  However before I close this chapter of Vespa adventures I feel the urge to thank some people.

Lets start at the very beginning ("its a very good place to start").
I should thank Ashleys dad for insisting that Ashley get rid of the basket-case scooter that was eventually to become my own.  And thanks to Daisy for spotting the opportunity that she knew would keep her own dad entertained and out of mischief for months to come.  This was the start of a new interest in my life that I had never previously considered (and it makes me wonder what other interesting hobbies are there out there that I haven't yet considered or discovered)

Although this was a relatively short trip, it was nevertheless one that could not have happened without support and encouragement from our families.  This cost us time and money that we know could have been less selfishly spent on and with our respective families - so thank you families for sending us off without making us feel too guilty.  More specifically I would like to thank Laurie for all her effort in organising the logistics of ferries, trains, and hotels - without her enthusiasm for these details Scott and I would likely still be riding in circles wondering what to aim for.  And I would also like to thank Joanie for letting my friend come out to play.  I'd have been bored and lonely without him.

Both Scott and I were amazed and delighted by the numbers of people who were reading this blog.  What started out as a personal journal soon turned into a story to tell, and I thank all the readers for their loyal following and comments - especially to those 'strangers' we met along the way and who made the special effort to check in and wish us luck.
As the number of our blog readers grew, so I found I was beginning to become more and more appreciative of all the things we were seeing and doing.  Knowing that there were people ready to read our next blog post made me become more aware of all the details of our trip.  And for that I thank all our blog readers for increasing my own awareness and helping me see our journey in full technicolor

There were many individuals who supported and encouraged us along the way, and there are some who are even now encouraging us to go and do another trip; Thank you to you all, including whoever it is out there who makes the weather - you were simply marvelous; we never once got rained upon, and you made sure the sun was always warm upon our backs - Thank you :-)
And finally I want to thank Scotty.  For not moaning about my clothes on the floor, for not flustering whenever I got us lost and for not losing a sense of humour even when we were knackered.  We worked and played well together - lets do it again some day :-)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Lessons Learned (Tim)

Some people think this trip was just an excuse for a lads week of fun and jollity, but they would be wrong (maybe).
This trip was a journey of discovery, An education at the university of life.  We weren't away from home for long, and we hadn't pioneered anything particular, but we certainly learned some things.

First and foremost - Vespas - they rock!  Before we set off, I'd heard all sorts of horror stories about their reliability and fickleness - I'd even brought 30 quids worth of spare parts and an extensive tool kit to take with me in preparation for regular breakdowns and daily maintenance.  However these bikes were so well behaved that throughout the whole of this 1000 mile trip, all I used was a spot of WD40 on a sticky throttle cable and a 99p posidrive screwdriver to take my L-plate off.  The only failure I had was when the 'Vespa' badge fell off in the heat of the sun.  I can categorically tell you, from extensive experience - Vespa PX's are very reliable machines!  Having said that, I wonder if, like taking an umbrella out on a sunny day, by having spares and tools available I was actually ensuring that I wouldnt actually need them.

Riding a scooter puts you in a unique class of travel - this is voyaging at a moderate pace (slower than a car or motorbike, but faster than a push bike or walking) and means that you can cover some distance and yet still always be present with the place and moment.  Avoiding the autoroutes meant that we were able to see so much more of real life in the towns and countries we rode through, and not having satnav meant we had to stop to read roadsigns and the village names.  These weren't places we were simply passing through, this was an endless stream of place to visit. We were on a tour.

And the people we met along the way were lovely.  They were interesting and interested.  I am sure this was due in no small part to the fact that Vespas make people smile.  They are a lovely shape to look at, and they represent freedom and fun.  People seem to look at them with a little sense of nostalgia, of their own youth and freedom - this was summed up beautifully when we couldn't get away from the elderly Italian man whom we'd stopped to ask for directions, and who wanted to look all over the bikes and tell us in relentless Italian everything he had to know about Vespas.

And what about the policeman who instead of telling us directions, actually gave us an escort to the station?  I am sure it was because we were sitting on the international symbol of friendliness and nonthreatening adventurer.  Would the German train official have let us board the train after the gates had closed if we were riding BMW K1600's?  Of course not.  It was because we were on what is the metaphorical equivalent of the Andrex puppy dog; cute, lovable, fun and forgivable even when we leave a trail of waste behind us.

Both Scott and I consider ourselves lucky people.  Not just lucky because we get to do this sort of thing, but people who have good luck on their side.  On this trip there were a number of times when we counted on our good luck, and we were always grateful for it.  Thats the thing; you have to acknowledge your good luck and regularly thank your luck stars.  Though I have to say I thought Scott was being a little cheeky with his guardian angels by running his petrol tank as low as he did that one particular day.
Despite some anxieties and worries along the way, our luck always came through and gave us plenty to celebrate and be grateful for.  If I was to do this again, I would pack less socks and more 'luck' - everything always works out in the end :-)

One of the lessons I hope never to learn the hard way is that of protective clothing.  Having enjoyed buzzing up and down the sunny Italian coast in just a tshirt and shorts I could become very tempted to discard my armoured motorcycle jacket and gloves in favour of the fresh air and freedom.  However I only have to imagine the skin of my palms peeled to the bone, and I shudder at the idea of not wearing protective clothing.  When I bought my current jacket, trousers and gloves it was mid winter here in England and I bought the clothing accordingly.  However now that warmer days are here these items are clearly inappropriate - they are heavy, thick, hot and bulky.  I still need protection, but i need summer protection.  I am determined to save some money and get myself a Tucano Urbano Cottage Jacket and summer gloves.  And I am sure that an open faced helmet for about town riding will be on the shopping list eventually

I think the greatest learning for me from this trip is just how important it is to have the right collaborator with you.  Scott and I knew each other fairly well before we set off, but we had no idea how we would cope riding and working together for 2 intense weeks.  In theory we would be fine, but how would we cope when we were tired or hungry?  Would we fall out with each other when one or the other got us lost?  What if one of us was considerably more untidy than the other? (we were going to be sharing a bedroom every night for 2 weeks - it could be a very unpleasant recipe for disaster)
As it turned out (and there is our luck again), we were to discover that actually we were very similar in most ways.  We had the same level of tolerance for uncertainty and the same level of energy for adventure and risk.  We never fell out with each other when lost and we never lost the funny side of Helmet jokes.
Rising to a challenge (even right at the start when Scott responded positively to the silly idea of riding a scooter to Italy) and egging each other on was critical to not only the success of this trip, but the fun of it too.

I've learned many things from this trip, but fortunately there is still so much more to learn, so I might just have to do something similar again soon

Boys understand (Tim)

Bloody hell - Scotty didnt once complain about my clothes on the floor, but I'd only been back home for 5 minutes..........

I miss Scott

Analysis (Tim)

Some road trip analysis;
  • Distance covered on the scooters (ie in the saddle) - 1124 miles.  Scottys total distance was a little less due to living a little closer to Harwich than I do.
  • Fuel consumed - 67.2 litres.  Thats about 10 petrol station stops, and at the outrageous Italian fuel prices of 1.55 euros/litre, that equates to about £100 of fuel. That's about 9 pennies per mile or about 21 miles for the cost of a gellato.
  • Fuel consumption rate - 76 MPG (miles per gallon) - Calculated over the whole trip.  Scotty appeared to be consuming fuel at a slightly faster rate than me particularly when motoring hard, but even so its a pretty good figure I think.
  • Top speed - We think our speedometers were fairly well matched and if they were reading accurately we were generally peaking at 50mph, though our preferred leisurely speed was more like 40mph
  • Worst daily average speed - 16.3mph.  This was on our 11 hour run down from Hook of Holland to Dusseldorf where we spent as much time reading maps/roadsigns/sun etc as we did driving.  Interestingly, on our return run (Dusseldorf to Hook of Holland) along pretty well the same roads, we averaged 19.7mph - which might still seem pathetic to you, but to us was a real result!
  • Best daily average speed - 29.3mph.  This was on my last day riding from Hertford to Birmingham.  I knew the route, I was confident of the bike, and I was in desperate need of a dentist appointment.  Of course another factor was that I didnt have Scotty with me but I simply refuse to accept that Scotty does anything other than 'propel' me
  • 2-stroke oil consumed - A little difficult to tell exactly, but I only emptied one of the two one-litre bottles of oil that I was carrying
  • Changes to my own body weight - Im not sure why this might be interesting or important, but it appears that I lost 1.8kg.  Im not surprised, its pretty well impossible to snack while riding and with a helmet on (perhaps we have discovered the next diet fad?)

oil leak update (Tim)

I hadn't been home 24 hours and I was desperate to get the bike cleaned .... and to inspect that suspicious oil leak.
I was surprised and delighted to find on removal of the gearbox oil filler screw that indeed there was no noticeable loss of oil - I managed to get a couple of squirts in, but that's all.  I wondered where that damp oily patch was coming from, and my conclusion is that it must have been a bit of blow through the clutch housing breather pipe when we were motoring hard to get to the ferry.  I shall keep an eye on it, but for now it doesnt appear to be a problem.

I think I could have made a quicker job of cleaning the bike if I had had compressed air.  The back end of the scooter was covered in a layer (thick in places) of fine grey dust. At first sight I would have said this was brake-shoe lining - but there was far too much for that.  maybe it was just a mix of exhaust soot and road dust.  Whatever it was, it brushed off easily before getting a soapy sponge onto it.
I took the racks off and stored them carefully.  I was planning to sell these on my return, but I'm afraid Ive caught the travel bug and I'm already dreaming of my next trip - so I will definitely be using racks again.

Other than adjusting the clutch cable and the front brake cable, there was nothing else that need to be done to have the scooter ready again for about town riding.  Brilliant!

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Berkeley question

If a man polishes his helmet in the kitchen and no one is there to see it - is it NOT funny?

It always was for me and Scott :-)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tooth- hurty (Tim)

I split a tooth while I was in Italy. It was a dodgy tooth anyway but it was finally a bit of cheese-puff that beat it. As this coming weekend is a Bank holiday I was keen to blag an emergency dental appointment for as soon as I got home which meant being up at the crack of Dawn (again) for the final leg of my trip from Hertford to Birmingham.
I wasn't really looking forward to this stretch. Partly because it signified the end of our adventure and partly because I had done this journey a couple of times now and I presumed it would be a little bit boring.
However once on the road it became apparent that a remarkable thing has happened to me over the course of this scooter adventure; I have become a much better rider. I am faster, I am more confident of my ability, I am more aware of the traffic, and I am more confident of my machine. All combined this made for a rather exhilarating ride home. I got lost of course - well I would do without Scott there - but even so managed to knock 20% off the time it took me to do the run a few weeks ago.
I got home with 30 minutes to spare before my dental appointment; enough time to unload the bike, put it in the garage and change my smelly clothes. I am not ashamed to say that I gave my Vespa a kiss as I closed the garage door. I love that scooter. Tomorrow I shall give her a well deserved clean down and rid her of all the accumulated bugs, dust and traffic grime.

I came out of the dentist at exactly the right comedy moment (2:30) with one less tooth in my head. It wasn't exactly what I was planning as a celebration of a 1124 mile Vespa adventure

Post Adventure Malaise (Scotty)

I arrived home (After a few calls at clients across London) at 18:15 last night, elapsed distance 981 miles, door to door. On an old Vespa. In seven riding days. It was great to see the family again, the boys have both had haircuts and look super grown-up, and Sam the 23 month old is now running everywhere and walking up steps rather than crawling. It was a good feeling to have made it home, and unpack the scooter and give Joanie and the boys a big hug.

This morning, however, I just couldn't get my act together, there are bits of scooter-journey-paraphernalia lying about poor Joanie's clean house. I couldn't find my work stuff, it took me ages to iron my shirt, it was all a mess. When I fired up the beast to head off to my first call in Hammersmith, the traffic was yucky and riding through Richmond Park didn't even cheer me up as it usually does. The post trip blues have struck majorly. I'm now sitting in an air-conditioned office with a couple of Macs on my desk and a huge pile of work to do. All I want to do is go downstairs, jump on the Vespa find some windy roads and stop when I run out of Britain. It would be nice at the coast today. Concentration is at a very low ebb.

That, or now that Tim is 150 miles away our bro-mance is over.

Perhaps a bit of both.

Perhaps time to start day dreaming about the next adventure.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Nearly home (Tim)

We parted ways at a junction on the A12 just west of Colchester. It was emotional. And as soon as I was riding alone I promptly became lost (both in the geographical and metaphorical sense) - I am lost without Scott.
Strangely, I felt more anxious and vulnerable driving along the busy A120 and A12 than I ever had on the roads in Italy, Holland and Germany. Maybe I was just feeling tired or maybe the English port roads really are much busier and more dangerous. I got off the 'A' roads as soon as I could and soon felt much more at ease with the snaking country roads. But boy was it chilly! The sun was out but the difference in air temperature between Holland yesterday and England today was remarkable. I had to stop and dig into my luggage to find the wind-stopper that I'd discarded 2 weeks earlier.

I checked a couple of times on that dripping oil but couldn't see any sign of a "flow" of oil - it's certainly wet down there but I decided that it wasn't enough to do anything about it there and then (and then I crossed my fingers)

Poor old Scotty was heading straight off to work with a client. I, however was off to stay the night with mum and dad before the final leg to Birmingham. As can only be expected on a trip like this, it just so happened that my brother was at mum and dads too - with the engine from his recently (this week) purchased Garelli Capri scooter! No, I'd never heard of it either - it turns out that his is quite rare and is going to need a lot of TLC to restore [if any readers have any knowledge to share about Garelli's, my bro would be eternally grateful]
We spent a lovely couple of hours in dads garage prising the piston rings out of thier carbonised grooves. It certainly is a cute little engine / transmission unit but nothing will tempt me away from the Vespa. I love my Vespa

Oh Oh!

Went to unstrap the bike from the car deck of the ferry this morning and horrors! There's a spot of oil on the floor under my gearbox.
Maybe it was there before I parked the bike?
A quick check reveals a little drip from the engine :-( it's not pouring out but it's certainly not right. We did push the bikes quite hard yesterday in terms of running hours and top speeds (long runs at an impressive 50mph!) so maybe this is to be expected??? But how much oil have I lost?

Now I wish I'd checked that gearbox oil before leaving Italy - fingers crossed (again) for a hassle free ride to my mum and dads today

Back in the UK (Scott)

After a brief nights sleep on the ferry (530am wake up call over the Tannoy) it was slightly sad to ride off the boat, the trip is nearly over, and life returns to normal.

Anyway one last job before we hit the UK roads proper, get legal and put the L plates back on (note Tim's surgeon gloves for the difficult and messy job of putting in four screws!. Tim reckons that we are professional Vespa riders now, and no longer mere learners, which I agree with, but I'm sure that the constabulary wouldn't. Nice to be back, glorious weather in Essex today.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Parting of the Vespas

OFFS who thought that waking passengers at 5:30am ready for a 6:30 disembarkation was a good idea?

Well this is it. After 2 weeks of being no more than 100 meters away from each other (and mostly only about 6 feet) Scotty and I must go our separate ways.
It's a sad moment

Getting through holland (Tim)

Today was always going to be a challenge. Our route was the reverse of our epic 12 hour run the previous week only this time we had an hour less to play with.
Getting out of Dusseldorf was a darn sight easier than getting into it and we seemed to fly along the roads heading north to Holland, our only stops to let flys and bugs out of our helmets - at one stage I felt like I was on "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here" as 2 moth like bugs walked back and forth across the inside of my visor.
The sun was hot today but we both still decided to wear our armoured jackets and trousers. We stepped up our pace a little to 50mph and the bikes seemed to respond well. At this speed the wind keeps you cool, but winding through back streets made you very hot and sweaty. I stopped for a wee on the side of the road at some stage and have to admit keeping my fly open a little longer than necessary just to enjoy the breeze round my sweaty crotch.
Getting out of Germany was pretty straight forward, but getting through Holland was once again stressful and longwinded. We had learnt from our outbound journey that holland has a fantastic network of cycle paths that scooters can use. Oddly when we ride on the road, other road users tell us to use the cycle paths, and when we ride on the cycle paths other cycle and scooter users tell us to use the road - in the end we pleased ourselves and used whatever was most advantageous.
While aimlessly riding round in circles in Rotterdam trying to find a way out we spotted by chance a cycle route sign identifying Hook van holland - 35km. It seems mad to me that cycle routes identify places 35kms away while road signs seem to only show local suburbs (none of which you have ever heard of or give clue to a general direction) as soon as we found this signage for HVH we were determined not to let go of this life line that would save us from eternal circling in this complicated city - even if it meant pissing cyclists off for riding on their assigned pathways. As we passed the sign that indicated the exit of Rotterdam, I laughed out loud as Scott in front stuck 2 fingers up to the city behind.

Today we spent 9.5 hours in the saddle covering 186 miles. Thats an average of 19mph..... We're improving!

Pushing one's luck (Scotty)

Over the years I have been to many different weird and wonderful places. I have somehow always managed to make things work, through blind luck mostly. Sometimes I think that I push it too far. Today we were racing along De Wall Dyke, which is a beautiful 20km stretch of curve after smooth curve, with very few cars on and a beautiful view across the river. I was getting low on fuel, the gas light was flickering, then on full. No petrol stations, maybe Leerdam has some, none. We hit a diversion along some smaller dykes, no petrol stations. We get back on the main road to Culemborg. Light had been on for ages, and the needle was below empty. Aaarrrgghhhhh! Drove past Culemborg, none on the main road at the start, must be one further down. Culemborg disappears in my mirrors. Panic sets in. No pipe to syphon from Tim's... No time for sending Tim off and waiting either. Panicky sweats start. Needle can't get any lower, it was on the stop. Eventually we get to Leerbroek, and find the right road to our next town and there is a petrol station just past the roundabout on the road we wanted. As I came out of the roundabout, it spluttered. And then spluttered again. Oh no! As I turned into the gas station entrance, and changed back down into second, one last splutter the died. The scooter stopped rolling one meter from the pump.

That is too close for comfort. Perhaps I'm getting too old for these dramas! Awesome luck though, glad it still works. I'm a jammy bugger sometimes. {touches wood}

The odd couple

I think we need to polish up our act a bit with this motorcycle travelling thing. After a much better nights sleep (though I appear to have developed a wheezy cough from inhaling Scotts second hand 2stroke smoke) than the last time we were on the Autozug we had a lovely leisurely breakfast with our new best Dutch friends - they were just returning from a motorcycle tour of north Italy on some big yamaha. Happily chatting away we got caught unawares when the train pulled into Dusseldorf station. Our Dutch friends and all the other bikers simply picked up their custom hardcase panniers and walked calmly off the train. Scott and I scrabbled to collect our collection of missfit tat together and stumbled down the platform with bags and bungies under all arms looking like a right pair of amateurs

On the train again (Scotty)

Riding onto the Autozug is less than comfortable, with about 5' of headroom, especially without a helmet, driving with your head resting on the speedo.

We got to choose where the loaders tied down the bikes this time, so we put the straps on the back racks and the the steering column, which was a great relief. Especially watching the guys load the suspension up before strapping it down pleased us. We slept much better last night, I only woke up five times (only because it was freezing and the train was bucking about) as opposed to twenty times on the way down.

A run in with the law (Scotty)

We arrived in Allesandria in plenty of time, which was a rather pleasant change. Whilst smugly congratulating ourselves, we then realized we were in an old city with a confusing one way system round squares. And no map. De ja vu. After buzzing about for 15 minutes aimlessly we found the train station. Which turned out to be the Town hall. We were looking who to ask and saw a police man getting out of his high performance pursuit Nissan Micra. Tim asked for directions, and the nice man said follow me. A police escort, awesome! The vespas helped us again, unfortunately Tim's Italian didn't stretch to 'can we have blues and twos please' but it was fun anyway. We were delivered to the train station with an hour to spare. Brilliant.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Directions

I was always taught as a child that if ever I was lost, I should ask a policeman for directions.
As we rode into Alessandria we weren't technically lost, but after our desperate experience in Dusseldorf a week earlier, we decided we didn't want to get lost - and so we asked a policeman how to get to the railway station.
"me dispiache, non parle italiano" I said to the policeman "parle inglese?
He shook his head. I pointed at the Autozug location map strapped over the top of my front luggage bundle.
He started to explain directions in Italian but reading my pathetic blank expression, paused and said "come", climbed into his police car and beckoned for us to follow. We dutifully complied and got ourselves a police escort across town directly to the door of the train station!
The question now is; would this policeman have done the same if we weren't riding a couple of old Vespa?

Turn right at the port (Tim)

As was only to be expected, we got away late - but who cares; the sun was shining and we were riding vespas along the coast roads of the Italian riviera. Scott leading, me blissfully and mindless following.
I love this sort of windy road riding, especially with the stunning views of the blue sea and bobbing white boats. As we wound our way north along the hilly coast roads, I resolved to make sure I spend more time out here doing this - it's perfect in every way... Well it was until we hit Genova. I have driven through Genova before by car, and I remember I couldn't wait to get out of there then either. The roads toward the port were so busy, you had to have eyes in the back of your head as trucks, cars, buses and thousands of motorbikes weaved in and out of each other. Scott did a Stirling job of decision-making out front.
Once out of the city and heading north, the road through the mountain pass to Alessandria was wonderful and snaked at just about the perfect pitch for an old Vespa. Once most of the signpost reading was done with I took the lead (I don't ride with my prescription glasses so I'm rubbish at reading approaching signposts) - we both agreed that it is far less stressful to follow the leader, so I was happy to give Scotty some relief.

At a set of traffic lights I lent across to Scott and shouted "Fancy a stop for a coffee?"
Scott pulled his sleeve back to reveal his watch and simply replied "no!"
We had only been on the road for what seemed like a short time but we were already running late! It seems to me that time speeds up when you ride a vespa.
We needn't have worried. After a 4.5 hour ride we arrived at the Alessandria Autozug with enough time to spare to supervise the lashing of the scooters to the train AND go get our last Gellatto of this trip

Ready for the off (Tim)

I've loved riding around Sestri. It's a lovely peaceful little town, the sun shines and riding here without bulky jackets and gloves is clearly what Piaggio had in mind all those decades ago when the first Vespa rolled off the production line.
However as we load the bikes with our luggage bundles I notice the odometer - while here in this idyllic scooter riding town I have experienced the grand total of 6 miles.... Every one with a smile on my face!

So the bikes are loaded and we are ready. Scott has made a last minute list of towns to head for - we've given up with maps and we've said our goodbyes. I'm a little anxious that I didn't get to check the gearbox oil or check any cable adjustments. I had promised myself (and the vespa) to do at least that after our long ride here - but there hasn't been time and so once again relying on our combined good luck we set off completely unprepared again

OMG (Tim)

OMG I am so tired. I don't think I've ever felt this exhausted. We have worked hard this week for CREA conference which closed yesterday afternoon. Scott has lead a team of 9 (including me) logistic "Red-jackets" - as conference logistical support our days have started at 7am (setting up the early morning yoga session) and finished at 11pm (closing down expo sessions). With conference materials and resources for 200 delegates spread across a dozen venues you can imagine how much kit we were responsible for - all of which had to be collected, collated, counted, packed and stored yesterday afternoon.
Even after our longest nights sleep yet of 7 hours we both woke up with a groan of "Oh My God :-("

But wait!

"OMG! :-)" what a primo day for setting off on our journey back home.

We are very excited to be getting back on the Vespas and especially to get riding along the Coastal roads for the first half of our leg to Allessandria - however there are mixed feelings about leaving this lovely town - I shall miss this view from my bedroom each morning

Right, time to pack and top up the 2stroke oil. I wonder if we should wash the dust and grime off the scooters or leave it accumulating for that 'traveller' look?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Remember this post (Tim)

We may come back to it at some time

2 days to go before the return trip

It really has been hard work here at the CREA conference and Scott really does deserve a catnap (it has nothing to do with the drinking and dancing until 2:30 am. It's the 16 previous hours of running flipcharts and postit notes around the town of Sestri Levanti)
I caught Scott this morning checking google maps for our return trip - it looks like we might actually get some Coastal road riding! I've dreamed of doing this :-)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Another little run out

To the top of the hill to over look the bay - but we were more interested to turn our backs on the beautiful sea to look at the beautiful bikes ;-)
Good job we went when we did - it's been raining today. Raining! Let's hope it clears by Monday when we set off on our return journey - I'll be sad to leave this lovely place, but excited to be back on the Vespa

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Riding in the sunshine

"Quick they need these books over at the Convento"
"No worries boss (Scott) I'll run them over"
Of course I couldn't resist to stop for a photo opportunity ;-)

Scott and I have been really busy these last couple of days and the scooters haven't had much attention, but I did notice him slip out for a sneaky spin this afternoon, so I was keen for an excuse too.

As the old saying goes "When in Italy, scoot like an Italian" - so off I went in my tshirt and no gloves. It was sheer scootering heaven not to be burdened by all that cumbersome protective motorcycle clothing and there was the added thrill of doing something that felt a little bit naughty. Of course we are not obliged to wear jackets and gloves in the UK but for some reason I feel I should, and yet here I don't feel that same need.

The ride to the Convento is no more than one mile - but I still managed to stop in between to take this picture :-)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Scooters feeling right at home

Work work work

Some people have been doubting that this is actually a business related trip. Honestly, we have come to Sestri Levante to work.
My first instruction this morning was to walk along the beach and see if there were any rocks (seriously!)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

..not in the biblical sense (Tim)

My euphoria at having reached our destination quickly evaporated when I saw the room the Scotty and I are to share for the week.
We have shared many experiences and become very good friends over the past few days.... But not THAT good

Arrived (Tim)

And so we made it. 520 miles. We pulled into the car park of Villa Balbi hotel at 17:00 to a lovely reception of congratulations from our friends and conference organisers. We were hot, smelly and delighted to have got here. We never doubted our plan but nevertheless were amazed that it had gone so well.

As we made the final couple of miles into Sestri Levanti I reflected on our achievement so far (I say 'so far' because we are only half done- we have to ride back home too!)
What we had done was nothing particulary original - many people have riden scooters to Italy before (the Piaggio museum is only an hour away from here and that is a vespa rider Mecca). And I wondered if we had cheated a bit by taking the train from Dusseldorf to Bolzano? Or wether we should have made the challenge harder for ourselves by maybe bringing a donkey with us or visiting everyone called Scott on the way etc etc
However, in the end as the sea and beach outside our hotel came into sight I concluded for myself that actually we had done an amazing thing - neither of us had more than 500 miles of prior riding experience and we had been hopeless in our planning - but we'd made it without disaster. We never doubted it. Did you?

Take it steady (Tim)

I am sure that the twisty mountain roads must take thier toll on our Vespas. Lots of clutch slipping, gear changes and braking.
We decided to stop a couple of times to let the bikes rest and cool down - I'm starting to feel a deep relationship with my scooter not unlike I guess a cowboy might have with his horse; you look after me, and I'll look after you (I've even noticed Scott on a couple of occasions pat his saddle and whisper "good girl")

I was very conscious of my brakes and brake cables becoming 'relaxed' as a result of lots of use over the past 4 days and I wasn't confident of being able to brake sharply if I had to, so we kept a steady pace as we ascended the other side of the mountain toward Sestri - much to the probable annoyance of the little trail of local traffic bunched up behind willing us to speed up

We'd come this far without a hitch; it would have been nuts to push the bikes to the limit and cause some damage... But it did make me wonder what the actual limit of one of these bikes really is

Get out of my way (Tim)

Hoorah! We made our first overtake today!
Up until now we have been pretty well the slowest thing on the road - even at 45 mph. But today we came up on 2 tractors and a Fiat Uno and had to over take them!
This may not sound like such a big deal, but belive me, to us it was very exciting

A road for all tastes (Tim)

After a fabulous (and well deserved) nights sleep Scott was up early this morning doing some work for a needy client AND pouring over google maps to work out our final leg to Sestri Levanti. Scott is very good at being bothered about these details (actually I don't think he's 'very' bothered, just more bothered than me) without his 20 mins of prep this morning we would have got far more lost than we actually did.
Today has been a ride of 3 parts. The run from Pozzelengo to Parma this morning was through wide open and flat fields on long straight roads. The wind was blustery and although we could make a bit of pace it was pretty uneventful.
After a quick focaccia in Parma we carried on south along some rather delightful windy roads toward the looming mountains. Now when I say mountains, I guess if you live in the Alps you might call these hills, but I judge it a mountain when road signs warn you about snow-chains and provide information about wether the pass is open or not.
I loved this sort riding - lots of bends and gear-changes. This is action riding rather than flat-out racing. And it would appear that hundreds of proper motorcyclists like these conditions too - those Ducattis, Triumphs and BMWs were all over those hairpin bends like a rash. We must have looked rather odd amongst them, but I am certain that they can't have been enjoying the ride any more than we were.

We made it! (Scott)

For once in my life. I'm speechless. Well done you two Vespas!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Beds (Tim)

It's nice for a change to be sleeping in a bed that isn't rocking. Scott thinks it's nice to in a room where you can't touch opposite walls at the same time.
We arrived at our hotel at about 17:00 which gave us plenty of time to relax and unwind. It may all sound like this trip is a non-stop jolly but believe me it's tiring and stressful. Mind and body really ache at the end of the day. And so this lovely hotel in Pozzolengo is a blessed relief today (and thanks to Laurie for finding it for us) I'd thoroughly recommend it.

We booked a triple room to save us the awkward explanation to other guests "no no we're not gay!"
As the hotel lady showed us our room she pointed out the double bed and the single bed.
"I'll toss you for the big bed" says Scott
To be honest I'd have settled for a beer

So much gear

Our hotel here in Pozzolengo is fabulous. We have a terrace outside our room and it's just the perfect place to air our sweaty gear in the setting sun.
Long trip scootering is a bit like snowboarding; great fun while it's happening but the gear is bulky and sweaty and getting it all on and off is a right hassle

The couple in the room next to us were intrigued by our apparent jumble sale. "There are 4 of you on scooters?" they asked.
You'd certainly think so wouldn't you

Easy run

What a lovely days riding today. 120 miles of sunny bliss. I did have to get a bit of WD40 in on the throttle linkage in the carb because it was starting to stick a little but otherwise this Vespa has been golden. Even after a several hours of hard burning she'll kick into life without a hesitation.
Generally there is a lovely gentle assent down from Balzano to Lake Garda so the bikes bowl along effortlessly.
We detoured off the SS12 to go and grab a gellato by the edge of the lake. This really is the life :-)

Lorenzo (Scott)

This is Lorenzo, he's from the Orsi Dell Alpi Scoooter crew. It's a nice pic, and great bit of luck to meet up with the Lambretta and Vespa crew at the café. Nice to hear a few tales and see some great scooters. We are having an awesome trip.

Our biggest worry was not stalling it when pulling away with them all watching.

Not so silly key ring after all (Scott)

As Tim mentioned previously, in the mad panic to get our scooters on the Autozug and run with luggage, helmets and full motorbike gear I managed to lose my scooter key. My only scooter key. Aaaarrrgggghhhhh. Anyway thanks to the little rubber scooter keyring, which I had intended to replace, the train guys worked out who they belonged to (only two Vespas on the train luckily! Anyway a lucky escape as busting a lock is a pain in the neck. Phew. And thank you lucky key ring, apologies for even considering getting rid of you.

We are relying a bit too much on our luck on this trip I feel!

Tunnels

If you are going to enjoy riding through these wonderful Italian mountains and hills, you will also have to endure their tunnels.
Now Scott rather liked the tunnels, but me? I was petrified. I hate riding the scooter through these tunnels (I don't particularly enjoy driving a car through them either)
I felt claustrophobic and vulnerable. Added to this, you can't just whip your sunglasses off like you might in the car AND although I've been driving the whole of this trip with my headlamp on it's fucking useless as a device for illuminating your path - though it does make quite a good lamp for lighting the map strapped to your front luggage map. Shame our maps have been fucking useless too.

And so I was driving virtually blind through some of these tunnels relying on scottys tail light to guide me out of the nightmare that could quite easily made me wet my pants. Maybe I'm not cut out for this sort of adventuring afterall

Rare objects (Tim)

It is amazing just how few old Vespas you see on the road here - and I include our PX's in this definition of 'old'. Apparently a decade or so ago the Italian government, in an attempt to meet their carbon emission reduction commitment, decided to offer hard-to-refuse incentives for people to trade in thier old smokey scooters for new less smokey twist'n'go's; and as a consequence many older machines vanished from the roads of Italy.
So it is a rare and exciting moment to see an old vespa on the road and the riders always give a wave and a toot.

While buzzing through one town (and I forget which one now) I was amazed to see a little gathering of old scooters outside a cafe. An exchange of waves confined they were friendly and I shot off to catch Scott who had sailed by unawares. At the next lights I shouted (its blimin difficult to communicate with helmets on and over grumbling engines) to Scott "follow me, it's time for a coffee break". We U-turned and went back to the scooter cafe.
It turns out it was the club meeting of the ORSI delle ALPI scooter club - and they made us very welcome.
Dressed in our full motorcycle gear and full faced helmets they must of thought we were a pair of pussys (it was 28 deg C) but they did seem to be impressed with the fact we were in effect riding our scooters 500 miles for a work event - they all agreed we had the coolest jobs!
We a coffee, shared some stories and some badges and then hit the road again. We were invited to a Northern Soul all- nighter with the rest of the dozen or so scooterists, but we declined prefering to press on.
Thanks for welcoming us chaps - next time we shall come just for the all-nighter :-)

Lucky lucky boys (Tim)

Once again I thank my lucky stars. To ride through these winding Italian roads amongst the vineyards and blossoming trees, the snowcapped mountains and the rolling green hills really makes me realise how lucky we are to be doing this.
Most of the fast traffic was up on the autostrade so we had plenty of space to ourselves (though there were a couple of moments where I thought Scott was about to meet his maker - there are some crazy drivers who insist on overtaking on blind corners)
There were dozens of motorbikes on the SS12 and we were most certainly the slowest at about 45mph. I wondered if they might all think of us as an inconvenience as we pottered along but my mind was settled when a modern bike overtook me and the rider gave us a friendly thumbs up. People like to see the old Vespas

Someone asked me before I set off on this trip if you get a sore bum sitting in the saddle all day. Well I can report that after 11 hours of riding yesterday my bum was a bit sore today. However if I got my speed just right today I found that the vibration could give my balls a nice tickle and that tended to distract me from thinking about my bum

A happy reunion (Scott)

After a restless nights sleep, worrying about our scooters (and having 60 cm of headroom above my bunk didn't help) as last night we were so late for the train, we couldn't supervise the strapping down, as we were running to the passenger bit. When we got to our couchette Tim asked how mine was strapped down. Then I had a flash back. They used the bloody racks.

The front one is held on by two hooks at the top and two wingnuts on the side hooks, and the back is held on with two bolts through 1.1mm steel and the seat locking post i.e. Fuck all.

The elation of actually making the train is replaced by reality that our lovely Vespas are held to a 100mph train using vietnamese racks designed for 10kg max loads. Bollocks.

It really was a nagging worry all night, up top in my bunk it was really rolling about in places and rough stop and starts. My panic was growing by the hour.

Anyway the sight below greeted us this am, and we were much relieved and happy to be back in the saddle, and mine was still ok after the pizza-delivery-boy style racing through Dusseldorf yesterday. Good girl.

Did the bikes survive the journey? (Tim)

After a nice little breakfast on the train with our new best Belgium friends we hustled for the get off at Bolzano. Despite all our worries the bikes made it in one piece. The rail men had lashed to our racks and surprisingly that Vietnamese stainless steel tubing took it very well without any obvious distortion to the legshield.

After yesterday's dramatic run we were confident and relaxed about the day; so much so that when Scott couldn't find a shop to buy an Italian map from we said "fuck it! We don't need a map anyway" and off we set.

Couchette (Scott)

The name sounds more roomy than it is... There were four of us, a lovely belgian couple, one of them pregnant had to share with us two smelly scooterists. We apologize again!

Anyway Tim looks quite knackered here....

Tim polishing his helmet while thinking about Jamie Oliver

3:30 in the morning

Scott NOT snoring but I'm fretting about the security of my scooter lashed down to this very shaky train

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pressure

We knew today was going to be tough. The map said it was a 164 mile journey and we had to be in Dusseldorf by 18:00 latest to catch the autozug transporter train that only runs once a week.
We started the day purposeful, by midday we were determined and by late afternoon we were desperate. Stopping all the time to check maps and directions really ate into average mph and although we accidentally got ourselves onto 3 motorway sections, generally avoiding motorways and sticking to A and B roads is a very slow way to travel.
We both agreed that thrashing along characterless bypasses isn't very interesting and so planned to avoid them thinking that we would have plenty of time to make the journey. However by mid afternoon things were looking extremely tight, we needed to get a shift on and those A roads were very welcome. The 2 Vespas rose to the occasion and blasted along those german roads. We had every reason to believe we could make that train.
Roadwork diversions, map stops and wrong turns cut deeper into our time and the pressure began to build. We were now starting to push to the front of traffic light queues and beating everyone off the start lines. We were ducking and diving through traffic. We were starting to panic. I even got to the point of making a "cosmic order" to get everything aligned so we could make that train.
We eventually made Dusseldorf and became lost in the centrum. We were knocking on the windows of cars at traffic lights "Bahnhoff? Bahnhoff?" we begged and confused drivers would point our direction - often necessitating us to U-turn (dangerously?) there and then. We had minutes to spare.
We found the sign to the Autozug (motor-rail) station and blasted in.
The check in office was closed. There were no waiting cars. It was 18:30. The train was departing at 18:44.
A man came out of his office. "closed" he said as he waved his arms.
"No. You can't be we've just ridden from hook of Holland to get here" we pleaded.
2 other men came out and a little chaos ensued while we begged at them in English and they discussed something among themselves in german.
"OK! Now! Fast!" he said pointing to a gate. Within seconds we were riding up a ramp and 5 men were lashing our still steaming hot and exhausted Vespas to the lower level of a motor-rail double decker car transporter. We were hurried off the transporter and into our passenger carriage - Scott losing his keys in the process.

We had made it by the skin of our teeth. Scott and I had cashed in our luck AND the cosmic order and we'd made it. The sense of relief was wonderful. We were sweating like pigs and laughing. Both amazed at what we (and the Vespas) had managed to achieve. We'd been in the saddle for 11 hours, covered nearly 200 miles and ridden through 2 countries and successfully persuaded a German train official to break the rules for us.

So here we are now all settled into our couchette with a young Begium couple who are graciously tolerating our smelly boots and boring chatter about the day. It is only now that the adrenaline has subsided and we've had a good meal of currywurst that we are starting to wonder how well those men lashed our bikes down. I seem to remember some straps around my front rack - if that is the case my bike is surely going to be on it's side in the morning. This could be another sleepless night of worry if I wasn't so doggone tired

No time to stop (Tim)

I wish we'd had a bit more time today to have stopped and take some photos (a pee break and coffee now and then would have been nice too) but we were under such a tight deadline that we simply didn't dare stop.
If we had have taken photos, we would certainly have captured the beautiful ride along the 10 km "cycle path" on top of the dyke toward Nijemen (spelling?)
The Dutch have a rather strange approach to cycle paths. They clearly love to ride bicycles and the cycle paths alongside every main road allows them to ride in relative safety and comfort away from the motor traffic - except however for mopeds and scooters. We gradually came to realise that our Vespas were eligible to ride on these cycle paths and it took us a while to believe that we could ride at 40mph in and out of (most inconvenient in my opinion) bicycle riders on these 6 foot wide paths. And it really is a lovely way to ride.
The cycle path along the dyke was windy and smooth with wonderful views of the river and the flood plains. We buzzed along in great spirits, which was good because just before this point I sensed that Scott was losing his enthusiasm. I think he needed food. We hadn't had breakfast and lunch was a pastry in a service station. There was no time for anything else.

Rattled by rattles

Scott and I appear to be quite well suited with our driving styles and energy. I think Scott would probably prefer to ride a little faster if he wasn't with a pussy like me - I don't like to ride too fast- I worry about falling off and I worry about that little piston. I have touched and cared for each and every component in that engine and just thinking about the stress it must all be under when hammering along takes a lot of the pleasure out of the ride for me.
When I started out on this trip I thought my ideal speed was about 40 mph but today I've been troubled by 2 very distinct rattles and as a result have found that a speed of about 47 is just about right to keep both of them to a minimum and thus minimise my stress.
These rattles annoy me intensely. Not only do they constantly jangle your nerves, but they are completely unidentifiable. I obviously can't investigate them while riding and I can't find them while stationary. My sense is that a nut and bolt is coming loose and seeings as I am totally responsible for the tightness of each and every bolt on the scooter since it's rebuild I feel this is a reflection on me. I have had plenty of time today to ponder on those rattles. I wonder if it's a rattle that is going to result in a simple paint chaffing or a catastrophic falling off of something vital?

Ferry nice (Tim)

I am sure I'm dyslexic. While we were supposed to be looking out for the road N124, I appeared to be happy to take anything that had an N and some combination of numbers behind it. And this became a problem when ever I took the lead.
I think Scotty makes a much better navigator / leader than me - he seemed to pay attention and remember what he was looking out for.
On one occasion (I forget which particular one now) we realised that we were on the wrong road, but a quick map check showed we could hang a right hand turn in 20kms and cut across to the road we were supposed to be on. Unbeknown to us however was that this cut across included a ferry crossing. Our hearts dropped as we approached - would this incur another unwanted delay? We followed a young girl on a modern vespa to the front of the queue of vehicles waiting to cross and as the ferry docked we were rather surprised as she rode her scooter down the very narrow foot passenger standing area. We copied her lead - much to the annoyance I feel of those people who had to suffer our 2stroke smoke.
The ferry was surprisingly quick and at €1.90 a piece surprisingly good entertainment. I even gave the ticket man one of our blog badges as a mark of our appreciation

A little later while filling up at a petrol station (I love "filling up" the vespa - 5 litres at a time) a chap came over to look at our bikes. It turns out he had a 50's Vespa. He took our photograph and wished us good luck for our journey (I gave him a badge)

Rotterdam

Have you ever been to Rotterdam? It's a beautiful place, but don't ever go there with a crash helmet on and start singing to yourself that Beautiful South song - especially if the only lyrics you know are "... this could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome..." over and over and over again - it will drive you freekin mental.

Rotterdam has some of the most amazing architecture and some of the most frustrating street layouts. Because there is so much waterway there, none of the road layouts are logical; If you want to get over there, you have to head over here etc.
It soon became apparent that despite our best efforts to plan a route last night, we were hopelessly incompetent. We had no idea where we were going and often simply relied as much as possible on keeping the sun in our eyes to ensure we were generally going east.
Scott had printed out some A3 sized (for the hard of seeing) route instructions but we rarely could make sense of the street names and it became a real pain in the ass to keep stopping and map checking. But as with everything in life, it all worked out eventually and we found ourselves on a nice road leading out of town. It was the wrong road but it nice.

Day 1 (Scotty)

We are on the train. By the skin of our teeth. We got lost and arrived at the autozug late, only to be told no way, train is packed, and ready for off. When we looked about ready to cry he weakened at the last moment. To much relief. It has been quite a day. 11hrs 20 mins in the saddle, travelling just shy of 200 miles. On a couple of old Vespas. Across Holland and quite a fair chunk of Germany.

We are nothing if (overly) ambitious.

Anyway. Things I've learnt today include:

It's funny when Tim needs petrol and the pump won't accept any of his cards (see pic at bottom) 'Johnny foreigner is not spoken at this pump.

A PX125 is a scooter not a motorbike. In holland you can ride scooters on the cycle paths. Thank you to the large number of Dutch drivers who pointed out to us that we shouldn't be on the motorway by beeping and shouting at us.

Waterproof motorcycle trousers keep the rain out, but moisture in. Fine for 30 mins, bad for 11 hours. Yuck.

Some roads in Holland have a ferry across a big canal. It's awesome, but Google maps just draws a line across like an imaginary bridge. It's quite surprising.

Crossing a country in a day is a silly idea. And we do it again in nine days.

164 miles according to Google Maps miraculously grows by 30 miles in actuality, leading on from this, printing out a few maps and doing a list of waypoints is no substitute for doing it properly. We had multiple balls-ups. Not printing out the Germany section if the map was even more foolish. We are hopeless! In the end shouting 'hofbanhof' through the open windows of cars was perhaps a last resort we shouldn't have needed. But a big vote of thanks to all the lovely people that helped us. Amazingly. If two twats on matching vespas did that to me in London I would point them straight in the direction Croydon no matter where they asked for.

What ever speed your riding partners scooter likes will generate an annoying rattle or an irritating carburettor starvation stutter, which is miraculously cured by going 5kmh faster.

More to come. I'm going to bed and worry all night that they haven't strapped my scooter down properly.

Off to a good/bad start (Tim)

What a perfect start to the day here in Holland. Fresh, sunny and a clear road. This is going to be easy!
Grrr we shouldn't have tempted fate; that clear road soon snarled up. We had arrived at The hook of Holland just in time for rush hour :-( and we were very conscious of the time pressure we were under today so this was not a good start. However as luck would have it, we soon found ourselves accidentally drawn onto a motorway! Bugger! We arent licenced to ride on a motorway here or at home. That wasnt supposed to happen and many passing motorists were quick to point this out to us with plenty of hooting and arm waving. I was shitting myself. But on the bright side we lived to tell the tale and it certainly speeded our journey up!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A good nights rest (Tim)

I awoke this morning at 6:30 to the tune of Bobby McFerrins "Don't worry, be happy" - if only Mr McFerrin knew what a challenge we had in store today.
And then much to my horror, Scott announces that he had "wankers cramp"! I think he meant that ache you get in your throttle hand and forearm from several hours of riding - but there again, you never can tell with Scott

You really couldn't fault this Stenna line ferry crossing. Great dinner last night, excellent cabin with more features than I've seen in many proper hotels AND free WiFi.... Which we are making good (panicked) use of in our final few minutes before docking to check google maps again

3:30 in the morning

Yup, Scott snores :-(

Day 0 (Scott)

I had planned to leave Hammersmith at 2:30, and before I knew it, 4:40 had arrived. So time to go! Got all packed up, texted Tim I was leaving, and onto a blissfully empty Westway into the West end, past Euston station, still no traffic. Where is it all? Then Kings Cross arrived, and there it was. Bumper to bumper all the bloody way to Romford. It was hot, the clutch must have gone in and out about 500 times, I wasn't on zooming up the middle of the lanes with the bag hanging out both sides at the back. A slog.

Not fun.

The A12 started off a pain with red lights every mile and a half with a 50 stretch in between, and being Essex, flat out was the only option! After 12 or so I was bored, then it turned into motorway. Then I was scared. 50 in a 50 zone was fine. 50 in a 70 zone was scary. After a while my confidence increased, and worrying about time constraints I looked at the speedo, and we were doing 60mph, bloody hell and holding it. I tried not to think about how fast 10 inch rims should turn at 100kmh and held on.

At speed the Vespa well, the helmet was draughty and noisy. Quite glad we will be on the B roads tomorrow. I did look down once and see the needle past 65 by quite a bit, and that was just pushing it just a bit too much for my nerves. Anyway 1 quick refuel and Red Bull in Ingatestone services, and the last 50 miles just melted away. Great to see Tim and get the bikes on the boat after all this time, We're off!

So 3hrs 50 mins with 30 mins of breaks to do 86 miles, average speed 25.88mph, including one hour of not breaking 20mph, Top speed (on the porkie-pie telling Vespa speedo) 68mph. East London traffic sucks. One happy Kiwi having a drink on the ferry. Cheers.

Are we in trouble? (Tim)

While we were warming up with a shared cup of vending machine hot chocolate (Scott had bought some English coins, but not enough for a cup each) we noticed a port official drive his van with a flashing orange light over to our parked up bikes. He got out and started to look them over.
Now we have no reason to believe that our scooters aren't legitimate European ferry material, but we would rather not attract the attention of officials of any sort. Scott went out to investigate, and sure enough he soon beckoned for me to join him and the man in the orange suit.
I wandered sheepishly over,
"meet a fellow Vespa man" grins Scotty
It turns out that our man (Ronnie Brown) was in his office when he heard Scotts scooter arrive and naturally (naturally for a vespa man) wanted to investigate so hopped in his van to come over and have a looksee.
Ronnie Is a member of the Harwich Scooter club and showed us some pictures of his lovely strawberries and cream PX125.
And he also had some useful advice for us; You need a full motorcycle licence to ride in Holland, so best to remove the L plates.
Strangely Scotts L plate was bolted on with 3 M8 Allen bolts... Which made it more secure than his rear rack that uses 2 cable ties to secure the number plate!

And I'm off! (to Hammersmith) - Scotty

Loaded up all my gear this morning after a rather late 3am beddie-byes, and took off to a client in Hammersmith, very glad it was a short trip as my packing was awful, the front bag had hardly anything in, and the rear must have been 12 kilos, the suspension was bottoming out over speed humps, it was horrible.

At De Agostini (currently doing build your own McLaren series - www.deagostini.co.uk -  I have suggested build your own Vespa partwork but nobody sounded interested!) I repacked the front bag, dropped off my homework, and left some papers and stuff there, and it made such a difference. Lost 4kg from back bag, put 2 kg on the front. Thank goodness or it was going to be a tiring journey.

And Scott made it too

Noisily and grinning like a Cheshire cat

Smokeless

Hands up everyone who didn't think I'd make it! Yeah, me included
I kept the speed down and didn't notice any more smoke.
The sun was dropping rapidly as I came into Harwich international port and I was getting cold so I was looking forward to a cup of coffee - but like the idiot I am, I hadnt bought any English cash with me. Grrr

Shit (Tim)

Wrong turn onto A120 and I'm going for miles in the wrong direction - and at this speed it's pain in the arse to plod on to the next opportunity to turn round. Grrrr.

Stopped for some petrol. What's that smoke? Why is there smoke coming out from under my bike?
Wait for a while and it seems to have stopped - oil or waxoil on the exhaust?

I have no idea how far I am from Harwich now

Good Vibrations (Tim)

I've just stopped for a leg stretch on a garage forecourt about 35 miles west of Harwich ferry. The scooter is fully loaded and looking like it's on a mission.
A van pulled up alongside me and the driver wound the window down as he admired the bike. I reached into my pocket ready to give him a badge to direct him to the blog. He produced a road map and asked;
"excuse me mate, are you local?"
FFS

The bike is vibrating a lot - the sort of vibrate that makes your fingers and toes tingle. I hadn't really thought about it much before Patrick at Scooter Surgery mentioned that it might be an out of balance crankshaft. In the solitude of my helment for the past couple of hours I've taken this comment and turned it into a disaster movie in the making. The trouble is, having never ridden a Vespa before, I don't know if this vibration is normal or not.
Well I have no option now but to press on. Looking forward to meeting up with Scott at the ferry port

A little diversion (Tim)

Our ferry crossing doesn't go until about 11:00 tonight so there was no rush for me to get on the road today.
As luck would have it, today is the day that dad was planning on picking up his own scooter engine from Scooter Surgery in London - so this seemed like a perfect way to spend some father and son time.
Scooter Surgery tends to specialise in Lambrettas - and I know very little about Lambrettas. But I was soon to learn that I am probably never going to be able to afford one - which is a shame because they are rather beautiful.
We had a lovely time with Patrick and Maude chatting in the sunshine about the relative merits of Lambrettas and Vespas. Maude left me with a warning about riding in Italy "Be careful, they come right up on you and leave you no space". It hasn't dampened my spirits :-)