BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Friday, 31 August 2012

Now we're off to Barry, near Cardiff in Wales, to learn how to dance the bump.


Today we are heading into Cardiff to catch up with Leigh and his wife Annmarie. I met Leigh at the Isle of Man TT, then the four if us went to the Dutch Moto GP together and spent a few days with a bunch of mad Dutchmen, but that's another story. (You can read about it in an earlier blog).

We left Saint David's about midday, avoiding the ford and taking the normal road out. After about an hour of fun roads we dropped onto the Motorway and picked up the pace. We stopped for lunch about three and found an outlet shopping mall across the road. Suzanne and I recently found out that we will need some formal clothes, read suit and evening gown, for some dinners on the cruise. So we both need to go shopping. About an hour later we left with a few items, but not enough. Oh oh, you know what that means.

When we arrived at Leigh and Annmarie's, which is actually in Barry, we were given a wonderful welcome by Floyd and Leo, and made to feel very special. Yes, they have two dogs. Floyd and Leo were very happy to see us. Leigh and Annmarie were happy as well I think.

My new mates. Floyd in my lap, and Leo on the floor.

Leo is a BIG boy, but very gentle.

Check out the size of Leo's paw, and he's only two.

After meeting the boys we were shown to our room. These guys have recently converted their loft into another bedroom, complete with en-suite. It was fantastic and very comfortable. It also provided comic relief when Suzanne went to the toilet. Every time she went I would hear a bump, followed by "Ouch!" as she hit her head on the ceiling. Ah, she's a laugh a minute.

We had a few beers then a couple of friends, Rhona and Terry arrived for dinner. It was a very funny night and at one point Annmarie and Rhona provided and impromptu "Bump" dance demonstration.

The girls "Doin' the bump".

It was a great way to finish off the day. Good friends, a few drinks, and a great feed. We were very happy that we were booked into the Hotel Jackson for a few nights.


The next day was spent catching up on stuff, then Leigh and I went out on the bikes in the afternoon for a short ride. This part of Wales is different to the North, but just as beautiful. There just doesn't seem to be anything here not to like.

We scuttled our plans of going out for dinner and Leigh and I headed off to the local for a few pints. The girls took care of the cooking by ordering Chinese and they did a fantastic job. No one can order food over the phone like Suzanne, she's an expert.

Tomorrow we should be able to squeeze in a ride somewhere special.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Erica (another painty person who Suzanne has idolised for years)
gives the buff some attention.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Ride to Saint David's, and a water cooled BMW.

23 and 24/8/12

After our nice sleep in and tasty breakfast we headed south again, but not before a quick ride around the area. Dolgellau is a picture book village and everything is perfect. The stone houses, the hand built rock walls that are put together without any cement, and the lush green fields all combine to make this a very special place. We loved it.

Southward bound the roads were pretty much spot on. Nice and smooth, winding, and undulating. We rode at a quick cruising speed and it was a very enjoyable ride all the way to Cardigan where we had lunch. After a quick poke around in a few of the shops we were on our final leg to Saint David's.

The paddocks lining the roads were full of black faced lambs. Suzanne said they looked like they were wearing burkas, then said they must be "Mus-lambs". I laughed so hard I nearly ran off the road.

An hour or so later we were in Saint David's, which is Britain's smallest city, but not at our house. The sat nav kept telling us to go down this little lane that looked like it was a pedestrian path. No way, not again. I rode on and it recalculated and sent us through a stone gateway. I still wasn't sure we were going the right way. Suzanne said "Just keep going". So we did, til we got to the river. There was a small bridge that had a sign that read "No Vehicular Access". I then realised we were at a fording point in the river. Should we go through?

There were people everywhere and they were all encouraging me to have a go. They also had cameras ready so when I fell off and got soaked they could capture the Kodak moment. I decided to have a go. The truth is it was just to bloody hard to turn the bike around and ride out. Suzanne deserted me and joined the blood thirsty photographers on the other bank.

I rolled the front wheel off the eight inch step on the edge. I was now committed. The problem here is that when your front wheel is in down a drop, and you ride forward, you end up with your feet being so high that you can't touch the ground. If you loose balance, you fall over. I gave the throttle a squirt and was in the river. I immediately put my feet down to balance and realised that he river stones on the bottom were VERY slippery. This should be exciting. I bobbled and wobbled my way across the river (it wasn't very deep) to the other side, where I found another eight inch concrete step, only this time UP. A blip of the throttle and the front wheel was up, then I stalled. A bit of clutch and throttle work and the bike climbed out without a problem. Much to the disappointment of the assembled crowd. The stones on the bottom were incredibly slippery, but all in all it was a pretty easy crossing. 

"Should I stay or should I go now?" (Thanks Clash).

No turning back now.

Nearly there.  You can see the rocks on the bottom here.

Job done.

Suzanne climbed back on and we were away.

Then we saw the exit track. It was an uphill, dirt track, covered in loose, wet rocks. Suzanne yelled at me "I'm ready. Just go for it". I hit the throttle and we bounced up the hill without a problem. This bike just keeps on impressing me more and more.

We were nearly at the top when Suzanne managed to click off a photo.

About ten minutes later we arrived at our accommodation for the night.

The house belongs to Maggie and via Paul we were invited to stay for a few nights.

Paul and Suzanne in the depths of discussion, solving the problems of the face painting world. Thanks for the invitation Paul, we had a ball.

I'm not sure if she knew who was coming, or how many. The house was once a small farm cottage but has been extended and is now a two story building with I don't know how many bedrooms and bathrooms. We enjoyed a huge bedroom with it's own bathroom. Deluxe. It was in a paddock and was a very relaxing place to stay. It just felt good to sit down, do nothing, and relax. Magic.

Maggie shares her home with her ninety year old mum June, her daughter Sophie, and her son Matt. They are a great crew and made us feel very welcome. 

The lovely Maggie. Thanks Maggie, we loved staying with you. Hope you don't mind, I stole this photo from your Facebook page.

Maggie's mum June is in her nineties, but is still very much the full quid and a lot of fun. Everyone thinks she has a hearing problem, but open a bottle of wine or Gin, and she'll arrive from three rooms away in a flash. You're a gem June, if I was a couple of decades older...

Dill the black Labrador finishes the family package and was a crack up. She wanders around with a bit of sheep skin that is a cuddle toy and loves a cuddle. She's only two but is very well behaved, until someone naughty steps in... 

Dill the Labrador shows her affection for Suzanne.

A huge spag bol cook up for dinner concluded the night for most of us. One of us stayed up until around three or four in the morning drinking Gin and Tonic, and drawing. Can you guess who?


The next day was a very quiet and relaxing day. We were so mellow that I completely forgot about taking photos while we were there. Suzanne took a few.

Paul, Nina (another painty friend) Sophie, and I headed out for a tapas lunch in a town about forty minutes away and had a very enjoyable time.

Dinner consisted of a selection of fish and chicken pancakes. Yum.

A couple of days of eating, drinking, relaxing, and chatting was just a whole lot of fun. 

Thank you so much Maggie, we really enjoyed our stay.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Rex's Buff meets Maxine. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Another face painting jam, then a ride to Dolgellau, Wales. What a great day.


After a day recovering from the dreaded Man Flu, which kept me on the couch for a full day and a bit, we were on the road again. A big thank you to Carla and Barbara for looking after us so well.

We were lucky enough to be invited to a face painting jam in Helsby by our friend Paul. He was then going to spend a few days in a house in Saint David's on the south west corner of Wales and kindly invited us along. This fitted in perfectly with our plans as we were very keen to visit Wales and also to catch up with my dodgy Welsh mates I met at the Isle of Man who live near Cardiff. It looked like we had a 10 hour ride in front of us, but you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

A reasonable start had us leaving Hitchin at about 9.30, a bit later than planned followed by a very wet and gusty ride up the Motorway to Helsby. We stopped for a half hour lunch break and Suzanne put her waterproof and thermal linings in her jacket and put on her winter gloves because she was very cold. I suffer from the cold so I did the same, but fifteen minutes later I wished I hadn't. I was cooking. When you are on the bike so much you need good gear and we're very happy with our Rev'it jackets. I think they'll be good in the cold of Norway in November, but at anything above about ten degrees I don't need any linings in my jacket.

We were in the car park at Helsby Community Centre by about 1pm. The face paint jam was in full swing and well attended by lots of painters. We slipped in unnoticed and had a look around. It was quite funny when someone put two and two together. An Australian face painter, with the name Suzanne. The inevidable question followed: "Are you the Suzanne from Australia who did the Face Painted Fairy books?" It was pretty cool to see Queen Suzanne with a group of eager face painters hovering around her again.

Fee, Keri, Suzanne, (sorry, I don't know who) and the fun loving Jo.

One fairly new face painter had contacted Suzanne via Facebook and asked if Suzanne would show her how to do one of the faces in her books. Suzanne was happy to oblige so we found Keri and the lesson began. When they were finished Keri was pretty happy and thought it was all over. Oh no. I fronted Keri and told her she had to practice - she had to paint me. Ha! She thought I was joking:

Suzanne during the class...

...Keri's first try at this design
(She's having no fun at all)......

...and the end result.

Here are a few more random pics from the day.

Paul recording the event for posterity.

Crazy Jo drawing the raffle.

Bad photo, but a good crowd.

Super cool Wolfe pack T Shirt.

Jo has had these T Shirts made up as a fundraiser for a wonderful guy from the US in the painty world who has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As you probably know medical care in the US is outrageously expensive and his family could do with some help. These shirts are a bargain at only 15 Quid each. If you would like one let me know and I'll get Jo's details to you.

Jo has also organised a jam to raise some funds as well. This jam is going to be one of the biggest ever judging by the number of people who have said they are going. For more info you can go here:

Thanks for this Jo, and god luck with the jam. We wish we could have been there.

It was a great afternoon and we met some new face painters for the first time as well as catching up with some old friends. On face book the next day Suzanne received some lovely compliments. Here are a few comments on one photo from the jam:

"Lovely person, fab painter. I didn't want to wash this off".

"I second that...a refreshing lack of ego".

"I agree totally, first time I've met her and it was a pleasant surprise to see how down to earth she was, defo welcome back any time : 0)".

"I felt very honoured to be shown how to do this, then to actually paint it onto Simon. That definitely made my day". (So true Keri, you were very luck to paint me.)

You should be very proud Suzanne.

The jam was full of super friendly people and we had many offers of accommodation while we are in the area, some from people we had only met a few hours earlier. Thank you so much for making us feel so welcome ladies. It was a pleasure meeting you all.

Another major plus was that we finally caught up with Jo whose birthday we missed a few weeks ago. She asked when we will arrive back in the UK after our cruise. When I told her she said "So you can make it to the UK convention". Our original plan was to tride to Rome to catch the cruise, but it was all just a bit too rushed so we decided to leave the bike in the UK and fly to Rome. Obviously we had to fly back to the UK to get the bike again, and I thought we arrived on the 5th. Yay, we're going to the UK face and Body Painting convention in Dudley. 

When we fired up the computer the next morning I checked our flight details and we weren't due back in the UK until late on the 7th, the last day of the convention. Suzanne was pretty excited about being able to go so I had to do something. Half an hour on the computer, and a bit of credit card work (airlines are robbing bastards when you want to change flights) and we are now landing in Bristol about 4pm on the Friday of the convention. We should be able to get there by about 10pm that night. I'm sure a few stayers will be up to have a drink with us when we arrive. Yes Jo, I mean you.

The bottom line is, painty people, we'll be at the UK Convention late Friday night, and we're looking forward to it.

After a lot of goodbyes we pointed the bike south toward Saint David. After a couple of  hours on some of the nicest roads we've ridden it was starting to get very overcast, dark, cold, and a little bit wet. A few minutes later we found ourselves in Dolgellau. Suzanne was very cold, and it was looking like rain so we decided to stay the night. We just happened to pull up right outside a hotel, so Suzanne went in to see if we could get a room for the night. We were in luck, but we didn't know how much luck we had until the next morning. Wow!

Dolgellau is beautiful. All the buildings are made of stone, the roads are one car wide, and it is just perfect. Both Suzanne and I felt there was something very familiar about the town. Then I realised that if you changed the shop signage, and the window dressings, you could be in a live Harry Potter village. It really was just like the sets we had seen a few weeks earlier. Here are a few photos of the village...

Anyway, back to the hotel. The hotel's name is Y Meirionnydd and it's owned by Nick and Marc who do an exceptional job of running the place. It only has five rooms so you have to book early. We were very lucky that they had had a cancellation and we got the room. We had a few drinks at The Unicorn pub next door but when we asked to order a meal, the kitchen was closed. We headed back to the restaurant in the hotel and just snuck in. Now we were in for a treat. The menu was limited, but that suits me fine as I'm not good at choosing from too many options. The food was bloody brilliant, and accompanied by a very nice bottle of wine. I'm not a big desert person, but the Welsh whiskey and honey ice cream had me. It was deeeeeeelicious. And it was a very good value for money meal. Five koalas on the Mykolajenko rating system guys. Thank you.  

Great hotel with one of the better guests in the doorway.

So off to bed we went. The beds were so comfortable it was like sleeping on a cloud, and check out wasn't until 11 am the next morning so we made the most of it. Bliss. But the boys weren't finished yet. We still had breakfast to go.

Our bike watching us have breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of quite a few choices, all made with local produce. It was another delicious meal. The sausages and bacon were something else and I even ate (and enjoyed) my tomato. I normally hate tomatoes.

We rode around the village and up into the hills for about an hour before we headed south again. Dolgellau is in Gwynedd and is located within the Snowdonia National Park in the north of Wales. It definitely a place we would like to go back to and spend time in. 

If you go there, please tell Nick and Marc we said hi.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Tina is a sweetie. She organised the jam, she can paint, and she rides a motorcycle. Thanks Tina.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Special delivery, and a visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.


I was on the bike at 9 am and had Barbara's nighty safely tucked away in my pannier. It's good to get out and have a solo ride every now and then. I can have a bit more fun...

The ride down was a little boring mainly because it was on Motorways most of the way. On the plus side I did pass Snetterton race circuit, home of a very large toy and model shop, and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. That's two stops booked for the return trip. This is going to be a real boy's day.

After I dropped Barbara's special delivery off I headed back to the toy shop. It was huge and had everything you could possible want if you were into toys and models. After a Coke and a Kit Kat I was back on the road. I explored a few back roads and found some great old buildings along the way. They were old, but they were very well maintained.

After about an hour on the road I rode into the car park at the Imperial War Museum. As I took my helmet off I saw a Spitfire take off, perform two loops straight from take off, then fly off into the distance. I was awestruck. To see a Spitfire in the air was one thing, but to see it performing loops was another thing altogether. It all happened so quickly that I didn't even have time to change the lens on my camera to get a decent photo. 

Then I went inside. It was boy toy heaven. I was now very happy Suzanne didn't come with me as she would have been bored stiff. The displays here are just amazing. The aircraft that fly are all personally owned, so they are not part of the museum. I was just lucky enough to be there the day the Spitfire went up.

An operational Spitfire.

I'm not an aircraft buff so I'll just post some photos of some of the planes I liked.

There were thousands of these in the air over England during the war. This old bird is still flying. I think it's a B-17.
A static Hawker Hurricane. My favourite.
This would look great in my back yard.

One photo for the losers.

I have a heap more photos on my Facebook page. You don't need to be a friend to go and have a look at the album so if your interested go and have a peek.

After a few more back roads I pointed the front wheel toward home and pulled into the driveway at about 6 pm. it was a full and very enjoyable day. 

We finished off nicely with a Sunday roast at the Gardner's Arms pub around the corner. Another great day.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Angela is a bit shy I guess.
She was one of the gang at Austria as well.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Face painting jams.


After the big night before Suzanne and I enjoyed a long sleep in, then caught up with some face painters at a jam Carla had organised at the local rugby club hall. Organising a jam the day after a night out for your birthday is not a good idea. We didn't get here til about Some others didn't even show up at all. 

It's always good to go to a jam and see what other people are painting. We found one painter who was painting names on arms. Simple enough, but we'd never seen it done like this before. It looked really good and I'll bet Aussie painters will be practising this after they read this blog.


Today was another jam, this time at Carla's house. It was pretty hot, or so the poms reckoned. It was about thirty degrees. : )  One of the girls bought along a marquee for shade and the girls were into it. Luckily I found a programme about Jimi Hendrix on Sky TV so that kept me occupied for the afternoon.

Carla's mum Barbara was of with her friend Phil for a week by the seaside in Hemsby so we said our good byes. At about 10 pm Barbara phoned to say she had left a bag of things behind, including her nighty. Yes, sure Barbara, you "forgot" your nighty.  Being a gentleman I offered to run the bag of goodies down in the morning for Barbara. Any excuse for a ride.

So tomorrow it's off to Hemsby.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Tom's mum Lisa gets into the swing of things at Carla and Tom's birthday dinner.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Southend on Sea - and Carla's birthday dinner.


What a day. Carla, Tom, Suzanne, and I jumped in Carla's little red Rover and belted down the Motorway toward Southend on Sea, or to us Aussies, the beach. Saffend, as they call it in the UK, is like a giant amusement park along the beach. Roller coasters, amusement arcades, all sorts of rides, and lots of fun. It's also home to the words longest pier.

Adventure Island fun park.

We took this opportunity to visit the beach.

Sun, sand ,sea, and surf.
Well, there was a little bit of sun.

OK, it's not Cottesloe, or Scarborough, but it's wet and on a hot day you could go for a dip. I got  up to my ankles in water and realised how cold it was. There's no way I'd be going for a swim. 

Carla, Tom, and I in the swim.

Our time in an amusement arcade went quickly. I really wanted a Hello Kitty toy for Paige, but I didn't win anything. The birthday kids had fun as well.

Very competitive kids.

We then ate a very healthy lunch. Fish, with chips covered in cheese, washed down with a Coke. Not a piece of fruit or vegetable in sight.

Yum, but really bad for us.

We decided to work off some of the damage inflicted by lunch so we headed for the pier. We stopped for a quick game of chess (where I got thrashed) and then walked to the end of the pier. We caught the train back...there was no way we were walking both ways.

Tom giving me a lesson in chess.

Our leg saving train that we caught back to the shore.

Time was getting away from us and we had a restaurant booking for a double birthday party to get to. The mighty little Rover got us home through the peak hour traffic with no complaints. Three occupants of the car had a bit of a snooze on the way though. Luckily Carla wasn't one.

After a quick freshen up we hit a Greek restaurant in town and caught up with the rest of the gang for the night's festivities. We demolished a meal and a few (quite a few) bottles of wine before heading to a bar where they have Karaoke.

I'm not normally a big fan of Karaoke, but I've heard Carla sing before and she blew me away, so I was looking forward to it. She has a powerful voice and doesn't need to scream to get volume, and boy can she hold a tune. Fantastic.

Carla shows them how it's done.

She's really very good. Not good like your family and friends tell you you are, but good like she should be recording.

Carla's sister Jo in action, with some dodgy characters in the background.

The bar was a lot of fun with heaps of people in there with some good singers committing karaoke. The longer we stayed to further downhill it went. It all started out well, but copious amounts of drinks, doubles, and shots meant that by around two am everyone was very "tired". Suzanne, Barbara and I headed home and left he young ones to it. I think they finished up about five am.

 Tom, Carla, and LJ.

Jager shot anyone? Nooooooo! Not another one! 

 Mum and daughter chillin'.                  

It was a great night with lots of laughs and silliness with plenty of people. I think the kids had a very enjoyable birthday.

Happy Birthday Carla and Tom.

Where's Rex's Buff?

This is LJ. Rex, she looks even better in real life. Down boy.

Oh, OK, here's another shot of LJ.