BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Monday, 25 June 2012

Disneyland...
Where dreams really do come true.

21/6/12

Today was the day that Paige had been waiting for. We were off to Disneyland Paris.

We wanted to be at Disneyland at opening time which is 10am so it was an early start to the day. Carla took charge of navigating and we ventured into the Metro (underground rail system). After a few problems with a ticket machine were were on the tracks heading toward our dream destination.


The Paris Metro. How hard could it be?

A change from the local Metro to the RER was carried out with military precision and we were on the direct line to Disneyland. The stops couldn't go by quickly enough for Paige. We arrived at about 10.30 


Paige outside the front gate. She doesn't look happy does she?

Yes, it's "The Castle" complete with Princess.

The next thirteen hours were a blur of Disney magic. Mickey and Minnie, Princesses, Disney characters, castles, shops selling every possible piece of Disney merchandise and roller coaster rides.

One of Paige's favourites. Paige with Mickey...

...and with Minnie. Minnie loved Paige's Harry Potter necklace. Who would have thought Minnie Mouse was a Harry Potter fan?

 Paige and the Mad Hatter.

One of my favourites. Sleeping Beauty. Oh, and Paige in her princess pose.

Now I don't do rides at theme parks, I ride motorcycles. I did go on the "It's a Small World" ride and loved it. I had so much fun and laughed a hell of a lot. 

The Kiwi part of the "It's a Small World" ride.

Oh, did I mention that I think the ride is designed for kids about five years old. Then I progressed to the "Buzz Lightyear" ride. A shoot 'em up ride where I had a blast. I think it's suited to eight year olds.

Paige and Carla ready to do battle on the Buzz Lightyear ride.


I then braved "Thunder Mountain". OK, I got through it, but I certainly wouldn't say I enjoyed it. Give me a bike any day. The girls all took the rides in their stride and had a ball. Oh well, I'm just a pussy.

The Disney Grand Parade was next on the agenda with all the characters in one place at one time with thousands of people lining the route through the park. Pretty cool. 

The Lion King float in the Grand Parade.

The highlight of the day was the "Disney Dreams" fireworks and light show that night. The light show is projected onto the castle and water walls sprayed up from fountains. It was technically amazing, but the real enchanting moment was seeing all the Disney stories we know so well, combined and coming to life in front of us. There were quite a few people dabbing tears from their eyes.

Blurry photo of the Disney dreams show.


Thanks for a lifetime of memories Mr Disney.

That was the end of Disneyland, but not the end of the day. We jumped on the RER train back to Paris and all three of us had put in a huge effort and our feet and legs were finished. We spread out on the train a bit because there was room and I had two double seats to myself. Until three, large, black guys came and sat with me. I will admit I was a little uncomfortable. Then I cracked up. One of them pulled a bottle of scotch out of his jacket and poured three glasses. He then managed to pull a two litre bottle of Coke out as well and topped up his mates glasses. He was drinking his neat. I asked him where the ice was and we had a bit of a laugh. His English was about as good as my French, but we managed to work out he was a musician who plays soul music. I think. It was just a very funny moment.

We were a little concerned about the train times for the trip home so chose to get of at Charles De Gaulle station and grab a cab back to the hotel. When we had climbed the stairs out of the Metro we found ourselves looking straight at the Arc Du Triomphe. That's not all. It was like Perth's New Year's Eve but ten times busier and twenty times louder. Portugal had won a quarter final in the UEFA Cup and the place was going off BIG TIME! Cars everywhere, people hanging out of the windows with flags, bikes on the rev limiters, scooters, colour and noise. God knows what it would be like if they actually won the cup. The hundred or so coppers that were standing around were all just chatting to people and full of smiles. That's the way it works here. As long as you're not endangering other people you can pretty much do what you like. A little different to home, eh?

So I'm lying here after about an eighteen hour day. As I type this I have three Sleeping Beauties in my room. I didn't know Sleeping Beauty snored so loudly.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bonjour Paris - And a very dodgy hotel.

20/6/12

We landed in Paris and headed straight out of the terminal into our car where our driver whisked us off to our beautiful hotel where Suzanne reclined in the spa with a glass of Champagne. Well, that was what was supposed to happen.
We strolled out of the terminal and our driver was waiting for us. We headed out on the start of quite a long drive to out hotel, but this was a good thing as we had the opportunity of seeing a lot of Paris along the way. Again the architecture grabbed our attention immediately.


How cool is the architecture in Paris?

It's old, but everything has a certain flair to it giving the whole city a quality feel. After a while that quality feel started to diminish a little...then a little more...then a lot...then...

We arrived at our hotel that I had booked on-line. Now in my defence Paris hotel accommodation is insanely expensive so I tried to minimise the impact on our budget by shopping around for a hotel that was a little cheaper, but that meant looking a little further out of the centre of Paris. The on-line site looked OK, and the description seemed fine. Suzanne started to feel uncomfortable about fifteen minutes away from our hotel, and that got worse the closer we got to it. We arrived and Suzanne and Paige went upstairs to check out the room. They came straight back down with Suzanne saying "We're not staying here!" (and it was a huge exclamation mark). We cancelled the hotel and waited out front for a taxi.

Our taxi arrived and it was driven by Suzie. Suzie was a gem who was extremely understanding and helpful. She could see Suzanne was pretty stressed and told us that yes this was not a good hotel, it was in a dangerous area and it wasn't a good idea for us to stay here. We asked if she had any suggestions. Suzanne told her we wanted to be in a nice part of town, close to cafes etc, so Suzie took us to the first hotel which she thought might be suitable. It was full. The second hotel was also full, but at $960 per night I was relieved. It was at the front desk of this hotel that we met a young clerk by the name of Simon. Simon was EXTREMELY helpful and spent about forty minutes ringing around Paris trying to find us a room. Most hotels were full but Simon called in a few favours and found us a room. It wasn't in his job description but he went above and beyond to sort this out for us. Thanks Simon.

Back into the taxi with Suzie and we were off to Gare du Nord, the railway station where the train from England finishes it's trip under the channel. We were picking up one of our painty friends Carla-Jane who decided she would come to Paris with us for a few days. After cramming Carla and her suitcase into the Toyota Prius with the three of us and our four cases we were finally going to see our hotel.

Suzie dropped us off at our new hotel. Unfortunately she didn't take credit cards (not many taxis do over here so we found out) so we paid her with cash which unfortunately meant we had very little to give her as a tip. Suzie, if you ever read this thank you so very much. You were wonderful.

Hotel des Duex Avenues is a nice little three star hotel with friendly staff and it's only about a twenty minute stroll to the Arc du Triomphe, then another twenty to the Eiffel Tower. It's in a nice, clean, safe area. Everyone is happy.

Time for our first dinner on French soil...


Three wise women navigating our way to food.

...and Suzanne had her first taste of snails. She said they were yum but I thought they had a bit too much of an earthy taste. I've eaten the before and they were beautiful, so we'll have to try some somewhere else.

Suzanne tucks into a snail for the first time
while Carla-Jane shows how she feels about it.

Now I've been told many times that the French don't like foreigners and I've heard stories about tourists being ignored because they don't speak French. We have had nothing but exceptional, friendly service and greetings everywhere we have been, and that includes talking to the locals about their dogs and giving them a pat. No one has ignored us because we don't speak French.

OK, as far as accommodation goes, I stuffed up big time, but everything else so far has been OK, I think.

Just a quick mention about the traffic. There are thousands of cars, scooters, and motorcycles everywhere here. It is utter bedlam and there appears to be no road rules at all with everyone going everywhere. But do you know what? It works. We haven't seen one accident or traffic jam in our time here. The traffic lights work on very short cycles and the traffic just keeps flowing. When we come back on the bike I think I'll treat it as a big motocross race. That's what it looks like the locals do.

The other thing that helps is the huge number of scooters on the road. On the way from the airport I counted fifty Piaggio MP3s on the road before i gave up counting. They are everywhere. Why don't Australian riders embrace there brilliant machines? If you don't know what a Piaggio MP3 is take a look at:


You'll want one.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Adios Barcelona - We'll be back.

19/6/12


Today we made the touristic Barcelona pilgrimage to Sagrada Familia, another Gaudi designed architectural masterpiece. This was my third visit here and I never cease to be gobsmacked by this building. I'm not a religious person so that aspect of the building doesn't affect me, but the design and engineering side is just out of this world. It looks like it is a model for a fairy story or something similar. There has been a lot of progress since I was here two years ago, but there is still a hell of a long way to go. That's OK though because work started on this in 1882 so obviously there is no rush. To be fair this building was being paid for by donations to the church, so progress was initially slow, it's only recently that the interior has been opened to the public (at a price of course) that funds have become readily available and progress is now much faster. I'd love to see the finished project but I don't know if I'll be around that long.

Token Sagrada Familigia photo. 
Seriously, there are so many photos of this on the web that there's no need for me to post any. Go and take a look. Go on. Why aren't you looking?

That night it was back to our favourite Barcelona Tapas restaurant for our farewell dinner. Set Gotic is nothing flash but the food is just so gooooood. The staff are great and it's a nice place to have a feed and a drink. Paige's favourite was the "Three goats cheese salad with honey and cherry vinaigrette". I reckon by the time we get home Paige will be cooking up a storm in the kitchen every night and we'll be eating really well.

Then it was a casual stroll back to the apartment for a good nights sleep. We had just settled into the Spanish way of having a rest in the afternoon and heading out for a late, leisurely diner finishing around 12, and it was time to leave. 

I could very easily get used to living in Barcelona. Who knows...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Barcelona tourist traps.

17/6/12

We all had a much needed sleep in today then grabbed a taxi off to Park Guell.


Park Guell entrance

Park Guell is an amazing park originally designed by Antoni Gaudi as a housing estate, but it fell through with only two houses ever being built. It must have been an early global financial crisis. The result is a huge public open park that showcases Gaudi's designs. It's just a pleasure to wander through and look around. It's always busy with tourists and the locals tuck away in the corners of the park for quiet picnics. Suzanne and I found a lute player playing there two years ago and bought one of his CDs. He was still there today, playing his lute. Boy he must be getting tired. Boom boom!

When we get home and finish the renovation you can bet you'll see some Gaudi influenced mosaics in the kitchen.


Mum and daughter at Park Guell.

Then it was off for a nice lunch at a little restaurant across the road that we visited last time we were here.

Dad embarrassing daughter (again) at lunch.

We finished off the day with a visit to a Salvador Dali museum just behind our apartment, but not without some more shopping on the way. The girls loved the Dali exhibition and it was a big hit.

Daughter embarrassing parents at Dali exhibition.

18/6/12

Today's effort started with a late lunch at the hard Rock cafe followed by a visit to casa Battlo. This is my third visit to the magical building designed by Antoni Gaudi for Joseph Battlo i Cassanovas. Google it and you will see how Gaudi weaved his magic in designing this building. It's not only aesthetically pleasing but it's practical as well utilising natural ventilation to cool the whole building. It's a shame modern architects don't use a few of these "old" ideas in today's homes in Australia. It's a real wow moment when you walk inside and I recommend it to anyone who visits Barcelona.

Paige inside the top room in Casa Battlo.

Luckily the shops were still open when we left so we could squeeze in a little last minute shopping on the way home. The way the shopping is going, this might only be a three month trip to Europe not twelve like originally planned...but I'm assured everything that has been bought has been a bargain.

Something I love about Barcelona, and most of Europe I believe, is that you can take your dog pretty much anywhere. Shops, hotels, restaurants and so on are happy for you to bring your pooch inside if it's well behaved. Fashion is also fairly high on the agenda in Barcelona. So I was surprised to see leg warmers being worn in a high fashion store when we were there:

Leg warmers! What was she thinking?

Tomorrow is our last full day in Barcelona so we'll have to squeeze in all we've missed so far, then it's off to Paris. Hope there are no shops there.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Touchdown Barcelona.

13/6/12

We touched down in Barcelona at just after lunch on a beautiful warm and sunny day. Boy do I need it so I can dry out. Our driver was waiting for us at the arrivals gate and he spoke no English at all. That's OK, we speak no Spanish either. There was a lot of charades, pointing, and speaking slowly and loudly to each other on the way to our apartment but we got there.

Our apartment is about twenty steps from Las Ramblas so there is plenty going on, even at three in the morning, and we have a very passionate Spanish family in the apartment next door. Did I mention the walls are paper thin? We are well and truly immersed in the Spanish way of life at the moment.


Just your typical building in Barcelona.

After a quick supermarket shop we spent the afternoon settling into out apartment. I still can't get over the prices here, they are soooooo much cheaper than at home.

14-15/6/12

We are all a little worn out and we're taking it easy at the moment. It's just a relaxing break, with a little shopping happening. Paige is doing well and getting a nice little collection of things that are about half the price they are in Australia. She's pretty happy when she gets a bargain.


Tapas, a Mohito for Suzanne, and a very strong Bourbon and Coke for Paige.

16/6/12

Paige has had a really bad cold for about a week now and now that I've finally relaxed it's got me as well. I slept most of the day and night trying to shake it. The plan tomorrow is to head out and do some touristy stuff, like Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We're all a little bit worse for ware after the UK.

A little recovery time and we'll be ready to go again.

Friday, 15 June 2012



The Making of Harry Potter.

12/6/12

WARNING If you are a Harry Potter fan and don't want any illusions spoiled you should probably skip this post.

Another early start and I’m not even bothering to talk about the weather anymore. If I don’t mention it, it means It’s wet again (or still as the case is here). At least I’m not in the south east, or in Wales where there has been major flooding - and this is summer. We checked out of the hotel at about 7am, Suzanne and Paige in the car and me on the bike, and headed to Warner Bros Studios to visit The Making of Harry Potter. In a word AWESOME!

My girl looking pretty happy just after we walked through the doors into "The Great Hall"

This was a display of sets, props, costumes, animatronics etc that were used in the production of the Harry Potter movies. It's all set up in studios where they were shot. I must admit to having a tear in my eye when we walked into The Great Hall and Paige was soooooo excited. There really isn't anything I can say that would do this tour justice so just take a look at a few if the nearly 200 photos I took there...

Hagrid's costume

Dumbledore's and Snape's outfits.

Gryffindor common room.

Dumbledore's office.

I always wondered how they made Hagris look so big when he was riding his side-car outfit. Full size one at the front, Hagrid's on the floor behind.

Suzanne and Paige trying Hagrids outfit for size.

One of the hundreds of silicone masks on display. Guess who?

This is Hogwarts. It's a HUGE model constructed for the movies. Every shot you see of Hogwarts during the movies is actually a shot of this model. It's full of fibre optic lights and even has some miniature owls in it. The lighting changes from day to night as you watch. I actually got goose bumps when I walked in and saw it. It was bloody impressive.

After nearly five hours of Harry Potter overload we were on our way to Heather’s in Herts near Watord. Heather is another painty friend of Suzanne’s (and still my favourite face painter in the whole world) for dinner. Who would have guessed that there would be other people there as well? The food was great, the drinks flowed, and the company was brilliant. What more could we ask? After planning an early night we crawled into bed sometime after midnight.

Zoe Thornbury - Phillips and Juliet Eve

Heather Sharp, Suzanne, and Juliet discussing the business of putting paint on people. No, that's not water in Suzanne's glass.

Nina Oats, Heather, and I. Someone said "do something silly".

We left our bike and a ton of gear with a very understanding Heather and will crash there for a few nights when we get back from Paris to prepare the bike. It’s almost there but just needs a few small tweaks. Tomorrow we fly to Barcelona. This will be a holiday because believe it or not, after only nineteen days away, we are all absolutely exhausted. I need sunshine, I need a rest, and I need some Tapas.

I love Barcelona and think it will be just what the doctor ordered.



The Isle of Man is done and dusted - off to Bristol to dry out.

10/6/12

The ferry docked at Heysham about 12.15am so I was rolling down the road just before one o'clock with a 350 km ride to Bristol in front of me. That’s what I love about the UK; I was in bed in the hotel in Bristol just after four am. That included included a decent stop for fuel and a quick snack. Obviously the speed limits here are a guide. I was going a little bit quick but I was passed by a lot of bikes and a few cars on the way. It was strange at around 3.30am looking in the mirrors and seeing the sky getting lighter behind me as the sun came up.

I rolled up at our hotel just after 4am and hit the sack for a few hours sleep then Paige, Suzanne, and I headed of into the rain to explore Bristol. I never get tired of looking at the beautiful architecture here, the buildings are magnificent and beautiful at the same time. We stumbled across the Bristol Museum and spent some time wandering around the many rooms full of goodies.

After a quick lunch it was off to catch up with Chris & Claire (The other part of the publishing team who put together Illusion magazine and Suzanne’s books). What a great family. Take Chris and Claire, and Oscar and Fergus, the kids, and throw in Reggie and Fern, the dogs, and you have a recipe for fun. I took advantage of the offer to hang out my tent to dry and to do some washing. That took care of that day.

Product update: Revit Defender GTX Gore Tex riding suit. On the way to Bristol the temperatures were as low as 4 degrees and I was still toasty warm wearing only a windcheater under my jacket with the linings and no thermal lining in the pants. My legs were a little cool but not to the point where I thought about putting the thermal lining in. Dry and warm. The gear does what it promises and does it very well. I probably should have gotten black pants though. These ones are getting a bit grubby already. A pair of cargo pockets on the pants would be handy as well. Putting bulky things in the side pockets is a little uncomfortable.

11/6/12

It was a bit of a late start today and we moseyed over to Chris and Claire’s about lunchtime and went….wait for it….yes….SHOPPING. This time it was important shopping though. We went out looking for a pair of gloves, a pair of pants, and a pair of boots for Suzanne. It was unbelievable. We found all three in the one shop, and were all done in about half an hour. I was pretty happy with that I can tell you. As for me, I’m still looking for a pair of boots. Maybe Spain will turn something up.

Wish me luck.




Thursday, 14 June 2012

The adventure begins - Isle of Man TT.

7/6/12

Outside our apartment in London about to head off into the rain for my first big ride on the BM.

The real start of my adventure happened today; I suited up and headed off to the Isle of Man while Suzanne and Paige stayed in London. It was very wet 400 km ride to Liverpool, and soaking wet on the Island when I got there. I'm not a particularly good wet weather rider, but I think I'll improve noticeably over the next few months. I stopped about half way for a feed and put the thermal liner in my jacket. My Rev It jacket and pants are brilliant and I wasn’t even damp inside my gear. I still don’t have any gloves or boots, so my hands and feet got soaked. Luckily I was wearing my merino wool socks and gloves which kept me warm all the way to Liverpool for my ferry departure. I was terrified I’d miss the ferry so I left early and arrived at the terminal about two hours before departure. On the plus side it was so cool to be the very first motorcycle to ride onto the ferry.

Self explanatory really.

Bikes coming off the ferry on their way home from the Isle. The volume of wet people leaving the Isle should have been a hint all was not well.

Now motorcyclists are a very friendly bunch and within minutes of sitting down in the departure lounge I had met a group of guys who had ridden up from Wales to the TT, Jason, Shane, Leigh, Aidan, and another guy who can’t be named in the interests of national security.  (We'll call him CBN). When they found out I hadn't organised a camp site they graciously suggested I go with them to their camp ground as they were sure there would be plenty of room. Judging by the number of fully loaded bikes I saw splashing their way down the motorway away from the island, I was guessing they were right. The ferry docked at Heysham and this is where the TT buzz really kicked in. About two minutes after riding down the ramp off the ferry I was riding on the Isle of Man TT course, hay bales, bunting, banners and all. I was actually riding my bike on the Isle of Man race course. Yahoo! I was as happy as a dog with two tails.

The Isle of Man is a beautiful place and I'd love to go back, when the sun is shining. It's very quaint and it buildings and villages are exceptional.

The Douglas Promenade on the Isle of Man

 The scene exiting the ferry terminal at Douglas

 As luck would have it there was a little bit of room at the ground so I had my very own little patch of soggy grass / mud to call home. 

The track into the camping ground. A wee bit damp.

Chateau Mykolajenko built and ready to accept guests. The light colour is excellent at reflecting the heat.

Continuing my let’s see what happens adventure I dug out my brand new tent, sleeping bag, mattress, and pillow, which had never been out of their bags before and proceeded to erect my tent. Amazingly it was up in about 12 minutes and my mini palace was ready for habitation. We bought a three man tent but I’m not sure how we’ll go with Suzanne in there as well, there isn’t an abundance of room.  I was pretty tired so after one beer (it was warm, and as much as I try, I just can’t drink warm beer) I crawled into my sleeping bag at about 11.30. I drifted off to sleep thinking I had done really well and feeling pretty happy with myself. I’d put in a good days ride in pretty ordinary conditions, I had been adopted by a bunch of nice, sensible, caring, and quiet gentleman, and I was on the Isle of Man and was going to watch the legendary Senior TT.

Boy was I wrong…

Four Welshmen, an Irishman, and an Australian walk into a pub…and so my Isle of Man experience begins.

8/6/12

It was announced early that there would be no racing today because it was too wet. I can tell you there was no surprise there. It had rained all night long and did its best to rain all day as well.  After a 4am finish by Aidan and CBN it was decided that the sensible option was to catch a bus into Douglas, that way we could have a drink if we wanted too and not have to ride the bikes back to camp. Here we are at breakfast some time around 11 am. 

Breakfast. Not a serve of Welsh rarebit or Irish stew to be seen. Me, Leigh, Aidan, Shane, CBN, and Jason.

Breakfast took a little while coming, but that’s OK, we downed four (cold) pints while we were waiting. That set the tone for the rest of the day. We then did a bit of shopping (Rex you would have loved it) and ended up on The Promenade at Bushy's marquee for a few more pints.

Bushy's temporary marquee set up on the promenaded for the race fortnight.

Then we headed off to the pit area to look at some motorcycles, and to drink many more pints. I was pretty happy to find a stall selling Dainese gloves, and I found a waterproof set in my size. I now have a pair of gloves. Score! This is where things got a little untidy. The bar in the pit area had a fantastic cover band called Fireball  playing lots of great music and the place was going off. As the night wore on it just turned into one big party.

The iconic timing clock in the pit area.

Friendly garden gnome trying to mate with my leg. This was about six o'clock and we still had another seven hours to go. I think the girl behind me loved us.

The locals were very friendly, but apparently I'm not allowed to publish those photos.

We left at twelve after meeting everyone in the bar and staggered into town for a traditional English dinner. A curry. Now Perth people, do you know a restaurant in Perth that would let six noisy but happy drunks in after 12 o’clock for a feed? I don’t. We were welcomed with open arms and proceeded to devour what would have to be one of the best meals I've ever eaten, all washed down with Indian beer. At the end of the night it was announced that due to my performance during the day I was an honorary Welshman, a title which I will cherish and do my best to live up to. After that we piled into a taxi back to the camp ground where I got into a huge fight with my sleeping bag because it wouldn't let me in. I eventually won, and was out like a light immediately.

Suzanne, I’m sorry I was away for your birthday, but I did my best to celebrate it in a manner you would expect.

That’s the end of my photos for this trip as I’ve flattened the batteries for my cameras and phone and can’t recharge them. Apparently we had a visit from Spongebob Squarepants sometime during the previous night and I'm waiting for photo lo load up. Check back occasionally and you might see him.

Race day - After a few false starts the IOM Senior TT at last.

9/6/12

How awesome are Manx people? Because of the unseasonal wet weather the Isle experienced this year there was a hell of a lot of very cold and soggy campers all over the island. So what did the locals do? They started a Facebook page and offered their homes to visitors to use their showers and to camp on their lounge room floors if they wanted to. Soon after the Facebook page went up shops throughout the island put posters in the windows advising riders of the locals generous offer. What a fantastic thing to do. Thanks Manxmen.

I didn't see any Manx cats while I was there, which reminds me of a story I told Suzanne many years ago. Manx cats have very short tails, almost no tail at all. Do you know why? It's because they have evolved over the years. Early in the history of the TT the cats had normal, long tails and the racing motorcycles used clip the end of their tails as they ran across the roads. The cats evolved and their tails got shorter. Then the bikes got faster, so the cats tails got shorter again. And so on. Suzanne tells me she didn't believe me, but I know she did.

Good news. Although the weather was still pretty terrible, the forecast was for it to clear in the afternoon and we should see the Senior TT. Originally the mountain course roads were going to be closed at 10am, then 11am, then 2pm, then 3,30 pm. They eventually closed the roads at 5pm with the Senior TT to start at 6.15.  I had to be at the ferry terminal at 6.30, but at least I would see a few bikes in ridden in anger before I left. Then some of the riders did an inspection lap in cars. After some delay it was announced that he Senior TT would be cancelled, but the 650 twins TT would go ahead. Due to the wet surface on the mountain it was deemed too dangerous for the superbikes, but the twins were considered OK because of the much lower power output. At least I’d see Aussie Cam Donald out on the track. Out came my Aussie flag in preparation. Then it was announced that the 650 twins wouldn't start until 6.30. Bummer! To add insult to injury I got a touch of sunburn in the afternoon waiting for the race to start.

I just needed a little nap.
Photo courtesy of Aidan.

So my trip to the Isle of Man ended without me seeing a single motorcycle in a race at all. Not one! I was a little disappointed but after seeing this place in real life the rider’s lives really are on the line, even in perfect conditions. So “fair play to them” (That’s my new Welsh saying).  If the conditions aren’t perfect it’s just not worth the risk of going out and racing. On the plus side, and it was a bloody big plus, I did meet a fantastic bunch of guys and had a brilliant time. Thanks guys, I hope I can return the favour in Australia one day.

I must admit I was a little sad leaving the boys at the Quarter Bridge Hotel for my lonely ride back down to the port to board the ferry for the trip home. Of course, not seeing a race means I’ll just have to go back again. 

See you there next year guys?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Surprise Birthday bash for Suzanne - and a visit by a singing gorilla in a pink tutu...

5/6/12

Suzanne hates surprises, so what else could I do but organise a surprise for her?

For a few months before leaving Australia I spent some time sneaking around and secretly planning a surprise birthday bash in London for Suzanne. Her birthday is on the 8th, but I'll be at the Isle of Man and Paige will be at a Blink 182 concert that night, so we had to organise something on another date, hence the 5th. Lots of secret face book posts and messages later we had a bunch of people who were happy to come and have a drink with Suzanne and help celebrate her getting older. 

Without knowing it I had planned the get together on one of the busiest face painting weekends the UK has ever seen, and during the school holidays. Obviously this meant a lot of people who wanted to come couldn't because they had previous bookings. Sorry guys, my bad. We'll try and catch up with everyone sometime of another.

So this is how it went: As we walked toward the front door of the Green Man pub (our venue) Simon Smith was standing outside having a cigarette. Suzanne was very surprised that we shroud bump into Simon standing outside the very same pub we were going to for lunch. Once inside we found Brian, Julie, and Emma Oliver waiting for us. At this point Suzanne realised I'd actually planned for these people to be there. She had no clue about what was to follow...

Within the next few house we had a bunch of people walk through the door and wish Suzanne happy birthday. After about the third person Suzanne asked me "Is this for my birthday?" When the birthday cake complete with HAPPY BIRTHDAY" candles (Thank you Jo) came out she was left in no doubt.

Mid afternoon we had a visit from a special guest. Our friend Mike Jones at home arranged a gorilla in a pink tutu to come and sing happy birthday to Suzanne. It was quite funny because I'd wandered off to the toilet just before he arrived, so people thought it was me in the suit. When I came back I found a large gorilla in the pub singing to Suzanne. He did a stirring rendition of Advance Australia Fair, followed by Waltzing Matilda, and closed with Happy Birthday. 

Happy Birthday Suzanne, from Gorilla in a tutu, and Mike Jones.

Us singing our national anthem, and in fine tune I must say,
while Bibi checks to see if it's a boy or girl gorilla.

Once the cake was consumed it was a crowded and very noisy visit to the supermarket next door for some drinks and nibbles, then back to our apartment for a night of fun and frivolity. And what a night it was. We eventually called it quits at about midnight because people had to catch trains, and we didn't get to bed till about 3 am the previous morning after a big night out.

Bibi and Mona cheesing it up for the camera.

Girls just wanna have fun.

The Olivers and The Mykolajenkos

Of course the paint came out. Simon Smith painting Juliet Pomerance while Suzanne (obscured) talks to Bibi Freeman (back to camera, how rude).

 Carla and Tom being, who knows what?

Part of the crew.
Back: Me, Brian, Julie, Simon, Suzanne, Jo.
Front: Emma, Paige, Charisse, Bibi, Juliet.

 Is this really happening?

It was a great day and I want to say a huge THANK YOU TO everyone who went to a lot of trouble to make the effort and come along. Thanks guys.

It's a little quiet at the apartment this morning. I had to go and pick up a new sat nav for the bike and when I got back Suzanne was looking a little sorry for herself. I guess twelve hours of gin and tonics will do that to you. All in all a fantastic day.

Product review.

Speaking of sat navs, as some of you know I had a drama with my Tomtom back home and couldn't get my updated maps to load onto the unit, neither could the shop I took it to. Due to a severe lack of time I decided to leave it at home and buy a new updated unit here in the UK. I'm happy with my Rider 1 when it's working, so I'm happy to get another one. 

So here we go, I'm already about $100 out of pocket for the useless maps I have at home and I've just spent about $400 on a new Urban Rider Tomtom. Opening the box I find that the unit only comes with a dodgy and ugly U bolt mount, not the quality one that came with the Rider 1, and IT CAN ONLY BE CHARGED BY MAINS POWER. Unless of course I spend another $100 on a 12V hard-wired, powered, mount. I can't plug it into a cigarette lighter on the bike. You have to be joking! Tomtom, what the hell are you thinking? This is totally unacceptable. I believe the unit runs for about seven hours, then what? Pull over to the side of the road and find a friendly person who'll let me sit in their house for an hour while I charge my Tomtom. This is really, really poor.