RIP Olga Pronina

I hadn’t heard of this Russian rider, mainly because I don’t do Instagram, until news of her death broke today.

The usual muppets are out in force, saying that bikes are death machines, that she should have thought of her daughter before taking risks, that she should have toed the line and not drawn attention to herself. That death is somehow justified if you are a beautiful woman riding a motorcycle in inappropriate clothing. Though she did team her denim cut-offs with a back protector.

But she wrote this, about riding:

“Thank you for never failing me, for making my lonely nights better, for helping me to forget troubles of my life, for training my body and my brain.

“I am grateful to it for the sparkles in my eyes, for the warm wind blowing on my cheeks when my visor is open, for unbelievable excitement and a feeling of flowing in the air, for doses of adrenaline.”

“Thank you for gifting me freedom… and I know that I am not alone. There are thousands like me, those madly in love with their metal horses.”

It is unlikely that I will pose on an ice-ready Suzuki in a bikini and a smile. But I totally relate to Olga’s words.  Biking is freedom, and excitement, and not being alone.

 

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Beginners Mind

So we start again. Reuben from OLAS Motorcycle Transport dropped off my new Jawa outfit last night and tonight, with tax and insurance in place, AdventureDog took his new seat and we wobbled off down the road. In defiance of advice from the three chaps from the MZ Club who allowed me to gatecrash their breakfast on Sunday. They said “For God’s sake don’t go on the road.” But it’s a quiet road and it’s mostly straight, so not too many people were endangered. Today’s learning task was to get used to stopping and starting.

I do wobble to work most days on my little 125, but that doesn’t seem to count psychologically as riding. Tonight I zipped up my boots, put on my ancient blue Triumph jacket – bought with a bonus 15 years ago – and felt like a proper biker again.

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Are we going to take the doors off?

I am a bit lonely in my new life so I am making an effort to get out to car and bike-related events, to have fun and maybe meet some new friends.  Today 2CV Ecosse kindly started their Scenic Run from Cupar Highland Games, so I got to watch some Scottish cultural activities (no caber tossing- is this a myth?) while having a cup of tea on the rugby club balcony before the start.  Then Shakey kicked his water bowl over and we had to slink back to the car in disgrace.

The line-up is a bit of a Highwaylass History of 2CVs. Nearest the camera – just like my third, if it had a big painting of Tigger on the bonnet. Two to the right of Hortense – a duck egg blue 2CV Club, just like my first. Though without gaffa tape holding the headlight glass in.  I was also unreasonably excited to see an Actual Mehari – the French equivalent of the Trabant Kubel. The doors lift out so that you can enjoy the proximity of the tarmac.

It was a rather more sedate run than the rinky-dink anarchy of an IFA Day – and there were no fords to splash through, which was probably appreciated by Donald in his matt-black mean-as Lomax. But we did visit a herd of vintage horses.   Fife is home to a world-famous Clydesdale stud – ‘fresh and chilled semen available from all horses’ – and it was necessary to look Gorgeous George (right) firmly in the eye in order to avoid looking at his prize-winning tackle. I am a city girl, I’m not used to this sort of thing.

 

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Old School: meeting Jupiter

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Most of mine are dead, so it’s not a dilemma I face very often. I have stopped entering those competitions where you nominate your ideal dinner party guests because no-one seems to agree with me that Nina Simone, Ayrton Senna, Che Guevara and Teresa Wallach would sparkle over the canapés.

In the small days of December when I was desperate for a distraction from packing up my life into another array of cardboard boxes, Coventry Transport Museum tweeted that Ted Simon would be visiting the city to launch a new exhibition and would be giving a talk about his travels.

Faithful readers will know that Ted Simon is the reason I still ride. They may not know that I missed out on seeing him a few years ago, when he launched the Ted Simon Foundation. I promised then that I wouldn’t let the next chance escape. But I have no Serious Motorcycle at the moment. In the winter half-light I puttered down to the Museum on the 125, and locked it up out of sight of the array of Large Gnarly Beasts that proper bikers arrive at such events on.

It is a popular internet trope that bikers would rather be on their bikes thinking about church than in church thinking about their bikes. On this occasion, we got to do both, because the venue wasn’t the museum, it was the beautiful medieval chapel round the corner. Which was suitably adorned with a large number of copies of Overland magazine and a large Triumph. And Ted Simon, seated near the altar, suave in suede, yellow socks, and reading glasses.

I have the very greatest admiration for anyone who sets off on a Big Trip. I have had the chance twice and bottled it both times. A dear friend has just set off. His biggest worry was that he wouldn’t achieve escape velocity, that responsibilities here in the UK would keep him tethered. But he fully expects to be able to come home, should he so choose. Ted reminded us that he set off, “on, as my girlfriend called it, ‘your fucking mission’” fully at peace with the idea that he might die on the road – “but somewhere along the way you have to throw your life into the hands of chance.”

These days, Ted concedes, “the idea of going round the world isn’t very dramatic any more. People are doing it all the time.”

But there are still roads to conquer. “Riding a motorcycle around the world is a political act,” Ted said. “We must take an interest in the world around us. It’s not where you go, it’s what you find.

“It’s about self-awareness and improving other people’s understanding of the world. Pick somewhere your imagination draws you to and go there.

“Find out what is really happening. Find out what it’s really like, come back and tell other people. Counter the impressions given by TV. It’s a liberating thing to do.”

For Ted, travel is a personal as well as a political liberation. “When you travel you are free to be whoever you want to be. We can free ourselves of the everyday contortions of trying to live up to other people’s expectations.”

What does the successful round-the-world traveller need? A bike, “the smaller the better,” and “an abundance of curiosity.”

I have the bike but I lacked the courage. Maybe it will be third time lucky for me. After all, another world is possible. And Ted said that journalists make the best travellers because we are scrappy, resourceful people. There is still hope.

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At six o’clock I shall be serving wine

Last Saturday I stopped at Scourie, on the North Coast 500.  I had planned to catch up with Nathan Millward’s Garbage Run and camp with them, because surely there could be no problem aiming at a (slowly) moving target heading from Applecross to Durness and rendezvousing somewhere around teatime?

Turns out it’s more difficult than you’d think. And after a slightly traumatic day which included the Lomax suddenly turning into a low rider and scraping along the single track about an inch off the ground, I didn’t fancy adding any extra miles to the trip by retracing the route south to where the C90 boys had stopped. Also my camp site had a restaurant and bar. Double win.

So I pitched my tent, and admired the beautiful view, and the Hugh Grant-a-like in the one-man camper van behind me said “If your friend doesn’t make it, at six o’clock I shall be serving wine.”

How is the solo camping lady to respond to such an invitation?

Is it just wine?

Is it wine with a chaser of ‘would you like to see the inside of my camper van?’

Is it the kind of wine that requires you to have a shower and shave beforehand?

I decided to take no chances. A shower it would be. Just in case.  But as I trotted off to the cubicles I overheard Hugh inviting the other solo lady camper on the site to join us. Maybe he was hedging his bets. Maybe the camper van was a lot bigger on the inside than it looked.

Or maybe it really was just a six-o-clock chat among like-minded middle-aged travellers.

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Ode to the Road

At first I was afraid

I was petrified

Just thinking I’d be broken down and stranded at the roadside

But then I spent so many days

In the garage on my own

And now it’s strong

And I learned how to keep it going

And so we’re off

To Applecross

I just pulled out to hit the road with a big grin upon my face

I should have done this weeks ago

Just sat down and turned the key

If I’d have thought for just one second

How much fun it’s going to be…

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This is what anticipation looks like

It is May.

I have had strep throat for 2 months. (“That’s a bit American. We call it tonsilitis,” said the annoying GP.)  It has seen off two sets of antibiotics, though why the NHS decided to give me the same drugs twice is a puzzle.

So alternate therapies are needed. I am sitting with a turquiose towel wrapped round my throat. I will leave you to work out why with the aid of google. And I am going to the far north. In a turquoise Lomax, which will be helpful for my karma.

Helpfully, it’s not as far north as it used to be, and I can get there in a long weekend instead of 10 days. (Coincidentally, the length of an ineffective course of penicillin.)

It is May, and in May it is traditional for me to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, though the last time this happened was 2011.  There is a run happening right now, organised by the intrepid Nathan Millward. He probably doesn’t remember but he was brilliantly helpful to me when I was planning my WA ride, so any adventure led by him is likely to be a good one.

Lands End was too far for me to go to join in, so I am sneaking in at Durness on Friday night and doing the final stage. I am wholly inconspicuous so I expect to get away with it.*

 

*This may  be untrue.

 

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Drive It Day

IFA Club friends were having a lovely time in Lincolnshire. Last year’s Lacock run was immense fun, and in fact the only full excursion I had with Scabbers before his health failed him. He’s now gone to live in East Kilbride, and, rather in the manner of sponsored children in Columbia, every now and again I get sent a photo and an update. He has been fully fettled and took part in the Scottish IFA Drive-it-Day today. I’m glad he has a new lease of life and is in really good hands.

I was hoping to get out with 2CV Ecosse but Hortense has not been terribly well since the mice moved in. And, much as I want to meet new friends now I live in a new place, old friends were visiting, and deservedly took priority. They wanted to re-enact Chariots of Fire on the beach but we paused for a quick photo-shoot on the way.

 

 

 

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Heave, Charlie mouse

It’s a sad day when you discover that beloved childhood TV was lying to you.

Mice have moved in to the 2CV. They are cheerully munching their way through the air filter.

I was led to believe that when mice took an interest in something they fixed it. Every little bit of it. Though they may stick it with glue rather than make a permanent repair.

So was I wrong to anticipate a transformed 2CV, Greased Lightning stylee?

Apparently I was.

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I am become death, the destroyer of rats

If you don’t like Brexit come to Scotland, the First Minister said. I like to be early, so I arrived in Scotland at the beginning of February. And things started to go wrong.

Cheer up, friends said. It can’t get any worse.

Hold my beer, said Scotland.

I unzipped the Lomax cover to go to work, because the flat back tyre took a while to replace and it turned out that Hortense’s starting problems were due to one of the brushes in her starter motor being mostly missing.

As was the Lomax seat.

A quick google of the difference between rat shit and mouse shit (size, colour and pointiness are the clues to look for)  suggested that Rattus Norvegicus was to blame and I trotted off to the Brown Overall Emporium to investigate their array of lethal options.

I live in the forest and I own a dog. I also read Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of NIHM at an impressionable age. I don’t want to kill rats. But they can’t be scoffing my car seats. So I compromised on plastic bags of poisoned grain that I could leave on the seats for rats who got the munchies and I hoover like a bastard before the dog gets in.  They have been back but so far they have taken the bait not the faux leatherette.

Rats did not eat my car when I lived in the city.

 

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