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Peter Genet

Gentleman Biker of Cricklade

Do bikers drink Earl Grey and eat Cesar salad?

When you think of bikers I bet, if over a certain age, the image of Easy Rider on Harley Davidsons springs to mind or, hairy blokes wearing denim jackets, club logos emblazoned on the back, leather jeans and racing loudly around stopping only to eat raw steak, drink snakebite and vodka! Those of a younger age might imagine Charley and Ewan in the Long Way Round; but whatever age you are, I bet you don’t imagine bikers drinking Earl Grey tea and eating chicken with a Cesar salad (ok, this was asked for in hushed tones!).  Well, surprise surprise, the latter is what you get with the modern biker. Ok, some of us may be hairy, we do wear jackets with the Wiltshire RoADAR www.wiltshireroadar.co.uk logo on the back though not compulsory, and we do all wear protective clothing.

Recently we took on a genteel ride starting at Sally Pussey’s pub (yes, we still snigger at this too) in Royal Wootton Bassett; heading down to Chippenham to pick up four more bikers via Brinkworth; then to Cheddar Gorge en-route to Weston Super Mare. Eight bikers all told; all on big bikes (Triumph being the most prevalent – just saying).  We did return via the M5 and M4 to get home in time for the rugby – well done the French and Irish! Come on, we must be nice to these guys if we want a good deal after Brexit!

The team meeting in Chippenham

Our first stop for coffee was at New Manor Farm Shop at West Harptree on the Wells Road south of Bath. Hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows and a flake! Crikey! Just what I needed – trouble is, no time for a snooze as we sped on our way in blustery gales through sleepy Cheddar gorge to Weston Super Mare.

New Manor Farm – suitably refreshed

Dropping into Cheddar it was hard not to admire the ancient rocks of the gorge which was formed from the melting ice age waters either side of us, almost, it seems, within touching distance. Not just us but many walkers were also out. We made our way slowly through this bustling little village following signs to Weston.

At Weston the tide was out as it nearly always seems to be but we arrived in time for lunch – talk about coincidence! Fish’n’chips! And, guess where the motorbike parking was? Right opposite Winston’s! First time a town planner has got this right!

Winstons fish’n’chips at Weston

This was a nice ride covering some 180 miles all told. The roads varied greatly in terms of size and condition. As did the weather! Wet and windy at times. Mild at others.

Lunch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earl grey and Cesar salad for lunch! Really? Yes.

The route down:

 

 

 

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Driving after a stroke – pot noodle engineering!

Last year, I presented a programme on Swindon 105.5 titled “Driving after a stroke” and my guest was Eddie Ruskin.  Eddie suffered a double stroke at the age of 46, yet he has since made an incredible comeback, though not perfect. He became a Gold standard Advanced Driver within a year of his strokes; went onto becoming a Tutor (his first tutee obtained a Gold pass in her test); and also a top notch observer/instructor with the IAM group! I met Eddie at the Wiltshire RoADAR group where we have since become good friends.

As a follow up, I thought it would be a great idea to go and see Eddie at work.

Thursday morning I thought would be a good day to pop along and see Eddie at his business unit just outside Chipping Sodbury. I had to get to Chipping Sodbury and home again via a decent route which means avoiding the motorway at all costs. See even visiting a mate I need to find an interesting route.

Eddie’s company, Dynamic Mouldings Ltd (their logo is on these blog and web pages) has gone from strength to strength making fibre glass mouldings that are challenging to say the least. When others can’t, Eddie can. And he only has the use of one side of his body – an after effect of the strokes.

The team in action!

Housed in a small industrial unit off the A432 near Frampton Cotterell, Eddie is joined by his business partner, Robin Jenkins. Eddie showed me a photo of a motorbike project that they are currently working on for the Discovery channel – I’ve seen the design and it looks fantastic, but I won’t show it here! The motorbike as a work in progress piece is to the right of the picture above and will be complete in the next 10 days or so – hard to believe that’s for sure!  Everything is crafted by hand to incredible detail and accuracy. Old fashioned engineering and true craftsman ship at its finest.

Robin applying his skill to the fibreglass mould

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say coming from an electronics manufacturing background, I am more used to seeing a tidier workplace! But, working in fibreglass is a dusty old business and yes, it gets messy. The team do have plenty of projects on the go and when one is being painted at another unit down the road, they get on with the next project. Some projects, like the one below, take several years to complete.

Not an E-type like I thought it was!

Some projects, such as a dashboard only Eddie and Robin can get right. It took three attempts to achieve this mould which has been used several times to provide the client with new dashboards.

Eddie with a difficult mould

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so where does the pot noodle engineering come into it? Rather than paying for expensive tins and bottles, the team uses old plastic containers. Could be yoghurt cartons, or pot noodle pots – anything to hold the fibre glass resin. The pot will be thrown away anyway so why not use something that has already been used. That’s good recycling sense!

Dynamic is a good word to use for Eddie. Dynamic by name (business) and dynamic by nature. I was certainly overwhelmed with the enthusiasm both Eddie and Robin have for what they do. My visit was a whirlwind of discovery looking at the variety of projects Dynamic Mouldings are working on – from ambulance ramps, birthing pools, wind mills, lorry panels, old cars to modern futuristic motorbikes. Made my workday look rather dull!

If there was ever a moral to noted this has to be the pick of one of the best. No matter what life throws at you, a double stroke in this case,  just get back up and do what you enjoy doing. If you can’t do that, then find something else to enjoy. Just don’t let life get you down!

As an end note, it was a nice ride through via some of my favourite roads. Coming back via Castle Combe was different though so a new bit of the country explored too!

Total mileage around 78. Plenty of places to stop en-route for tea/coffee/cake.

Chasing the rainbow!

Nothing to do with drugs! Honest!

Went back to the area of a recent walk, in the vicinity of Burford –  Windrush and the Barringtons with my good friend Richard George.

Weather started off nice and sunny, then it chucked it down on the way home. Great! Never mind, made it rather refreshing.

Some nice villages around here; amazing what we miss if we don’t turn off the main roads! Just along from Great Barrington, after the rain, this fantastic rainbow appeared in the field next to us. It was almost touchable, or so it seemed. No gold though!

Gold must be here!
Gold must be here somewhere!

After going round in circles, we stumbled across Windrush. Another pretty little village with a village triangle next to the church of St Peter I believe.

Windrush and St Peter's church
Windrush and St Peter’s church

Off home, stopping en-route for coffee in Jesse Smith Farm Shop and Coffee House,  http://jessesmith.co.uk/farm-shop-coffee-house/ for a cappuccino in Cirencester.

Only a short ride out, but nice to do! Lots more exploring to be done though – can’t wait for the drier weather.

Map of the route:

Watch out – Tiger loose in Oxfordshire!

And north Wiltshire too. Ok, so it’s a Triumph Tiger! Had you worried though.

After visiting my Dad in hospital, I decided on a long way home from Swindon and thought a trip to Uffington White Horse was called for.

Tiger by the Uffington White Horse
Tiger by the Uffington White Horse

The route went up through Wanborough, straight to Hinton Parva, Bishopstone, Idstone, Ashbury, finally turning back down to Woolstone following signs for Shrivenham and then Highworth. From Highworth its back to the A419 and turning right down the hill all the way home!

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse

“The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylised prehistoric hill figure, 110 m (360 ft) long, formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk. The figure is situated on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in the English civil parish of Uffington (in the county of Oxfordshire, historically Berkshire), some 8 km (5 mi) south of the town of Faringdon and a similar distance west of the town of Wantage; or 2.5 km (1.6 mi) south of Uffington.”

It is from the Bronze Age and around 3,000 years old!  There is an iron age fort up there too. Worth a walk round, especially on a day like today. The views are amazing! You can see all the way to Wales!

We stopped  en-route to take a snap by Westmill Wind Farm and Solar Park. Five windmills all told, no noise to be heard so not sure what the fuss is all about – ok they don’t enhance the scenery I agree, but……

Westmill Wind Farm & Solar Park
Westmill Wind Farm & Solar Park

Nice warm-ish day of around 10degs, but gusty at times. Sun was out so I felt great!

This ride is a nice little ride, some of the roads are quite narrow and have grit down the middle. They are really ancient tracks with tarmac so be warned! There was mud in places from the local farmyards which made for a slippery patch every now and then. But, I think I’m lucky to live so close by to some wonderful scenery. We take it all for granted don’t we!

The route we took:

Happy days!  Just thinking about some of the place names, such as Idstone – I now need to know where that name came from!

Tutoring again – telling associate to speed up!!

What a great day that was! Spent it tutoring one of the guys from RoSPA. Really nice chap and enthusiastic about his riding too.

Took him down to the Divine Cafe, a favourite Wiltshire RoADAR meeting point, via Royal Wootton Bassett and Avebury, then back along to Marlborough and to the Triumph showroom in Swindon for another cuppa tea.  Only around 60 miles all told, but we stopped often and chatted about bikes, his riding and so on.

Major points – he is a really good rider, corners well and at appropriate speed too. Makes it difficult for me to really provide useful advice, however, no such thing as a perfect ride. So, couple of points I picked up on were making sure there was sufficient safety margin between him and oncoming traffic, and to speed up! Yes, speed up!!  Being told to speed up is not what he expected to be told. He missed the national speed limit down to Avebury and thought it was a 50mph zone!   That little error would have knocked his grade down from Gold to Silver had this been the actual RoSPA test!

The point is though to ride at the appropriate speed according to the road, traffic and weather conditions. 50mph was too slow in this instance. If it had been wet, raining, muddy, then 50mph would have been appropriate.

Live and learn!

 

Sally rode pillion on the Tiger!

Wow! Ok, she had little choice to be honest as our car is being repaired this week – all week! Ouch, that’s going to be expensive.

Anyway, seems she really enjoyed it! Fresh air coming in was the best. It was dark and a bit wet out, but….Got me thinking about the next bike; sticking with Triumph (of course!)

Next bike perhaps?
Next bike perhaps?

 

Riding with pillion reminded me of how much extra care I need to take. Extra time to brake; even more care when accelerating – don’t want to jolt her around; looking further ahead to make the ride as smooth as possible. And the pre-ride pep talk – lean with the rider, don’t lean the opposite way as this makes it really hard to control; hold onto the grab rails or me; tap me once to turn left, twice for right, and many times to stop!

But, she enjoyed it, and so did I!

Riding in the dark was good too. The Tiger’s lights work really well compared to other bikes I have seen. The road was a bit damp and there was some mud about, but with traction control this proved no issue at all.

Can’t wait now for lighter evenings and dry days to get out again, perhaps for a whole day!

 

 

Good morning tutoring!

Nice day – ish! Spent the morning tutoring a good friend of mine who is just getting back into riding a motorbike! He’s been off them for many years now. He used to race them in his younger days so its been a bit daunting for me in many ways!

Using 2-way radio, I was able to provide advice on road positioning, moving out for hazards, watching speed, getting rid of old habits and looking out for overtake opportunities. We went up the Fosse Way but turned off at Stow-on-the-Wold as we headed towards Evesham.

This was our fourth ride and its really good to see the progress he is making. From being extremely nervous to having the confidence to lead me through towns and Cotswold villages at the appropriate speed – though I still paid for the coffees!

Using the intercom is good as it allows us to chat and talk about all things roady. Bit nerdy I guess!

From Evesham we headed back to the M5 for a brief stint getting off at the Cheltenham/Cirencester junction to head back along the A419 to Cricklade.  A good collection of roads, A, B, dual and Motorways.

We covered around 100 miles over a period of three hours. Great ride in some fantastic Cotswold scenery even in mid-February!

Blowing away the cobwebs up the Fosse way!

Blimey, what a nice day today turned out to be. Sat indoors all morning and around midday, sun was out with clear blue sky, so what the hell, thought I’d go for a spin. First long-ish ride of the year. Just got back home and now its turning a bit dark and cloudy again.

Headed up to the Fosse Way all the way to Morton in Marsh. Turning right towards Oxford along the A44, and once at Chipping Norton, headed to Burford, Lechlade and home again to Cricklade.

What great riding! Long sweeping bends. Some tricky ones too in places. Sun was a bit low in the sky which made riding home a bit more interesting.

I’ve just notched this particular route up as one of my favourites, though a bit more exploring of the side roads is beckoning next time. And the really good thing is, there seemed to be plenty of stopping places for the obligatory coffee/tea break too!

Looking forward to doing it again once the weather warms up a bit. Hands got a bit nippy towards the end which makes typing this a bit tricky.

But, what great scenery we have. All around us are these fantastic views of rolling chalk hills – after all that is what the Cotswold hills are.

It didn’t take anywhere near as long as it suggests in the map above. Just over an hour; maybe an hour and a half perhaps. But mileage was spot on!  Happy days are here again!

Tanzania, I presume!

Popped to Dar Es Salaam for a week to help out with some solar power lighting installations in houses in a remote village, Mkoko, at least 2.5 hours drive from Dar Es Salaam.  And why not?

Note also, that Dar Es Salaam is not the capital – Dodoma is! I learnt that too!

Tanzania is a large east African country, known for its vast wilderness areas. Sitting directly below Kenya, it plays second fiddle in terms of tourism popularity to its neighbour. Which is a shame to be honest. But, not for much longer from what I saw and heard.

Interestingly, the Omani Arabs founded their African slave trade business in Tanzania way back in 1699, where some 1.4million peoples were enslaved over the years, in a town just north of Dar Es Salaam. Also, Bagamoyo ,another town  laying north of Dar Es Salaam, was where Dr David Livingstone was buried for four days!

Our first day, after travelling for more than 24 hours, saw us frequent the popular Samaki Samaki bar – sounds like Smacky Smacky – which is a fish bar (honest!).

Enough of that, I was there to help install solar powered lighting and TV systems into a remote village, Mkoko, see map of rough location.

 

En route to the village of Mkoko, we passed by many mud huts with both tin and thatched roofs. Surprisingly, these mud huts last for many years and do not wash away in the rains that frequent this area.

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The important work we were there for was to install solar power lighting into the houses.

Very hot tin roof - cable melted!
Very hot tin roof – cable melted!

And a very happy customer once we had completed! Yes, he was even happier when Jeff gave him his shirt of his back!

Happy customer!
Happy customer!

Unfortnately, we couldn’t stay around for darkness to see the lights working. The road out was a rough dirt road which we needed to see in daylight. Shame to be honest, as the lights made a lot of difference to the inside of the house.

The locals were friendly enough and happy to pose for some insane Brit taking pictures!

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Ok, I didn’t get to ride in Africa, but sat on a bike anyway!!

One day I will take a Tiger to Africa!
One day I will take a Tiger to Africa!

End of a long few days, decided to stop off at another bar, Karibu Sand, adjacent to the Indian Ocean, for a beer!  Jeff and Robin gulping down just the one – this time!

At the Karibu Sands Bar - for just the one!
At the Karibu Sands Bar – for just the one!

Was our trip successful? Yes and no. We learnt a lot that’s for sure. And these lessons will be put into practice for the next time. No – we didn’t install anywhere as near as many systems as we would have hoped. But, hey, that’s the way these things go. Africa is a hard place to work; its unforgiving when things go wrong; best be prepared next time.

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Errrrr....Brits abroad!!!
Errrrr….Brits abroad!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an aside, I did watch the latest Ghostbusters film on the way home, and I have to ask the question “Why?” Not why did I watch it, although I have since asked myself that, but simply “Why?”. What was the point? It was dreadful!

Overall impressions of Tanzania. All though only there for a short while, and saw only a small part of it, I have to say it has a lot of potential. Once the locals realise what they have and stop spoiling it with chucking away their waste that is!

Looking forwards to the next trip!

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