Memories of America #9 - Final Preparations

A rainy morning (despite the appearance of blue sky) at the Hunt's Lodge Motorcycle Campground, just outside Tellico Plains, Tennessee, taking advantage of their covered picnic area to load the bike up for the first day on the Trans-Am Trail.

(It would, incidentally, continue to rain for the next couple of days)

I'd arrived the night before after a run down the Tail of the Dragon, and had a futile search round an apparently lifeless town for somewhere to stay before stumbling across this place.  $12 for the night suited me fine, so I pitched up before riding back to town for some highly nutritious (erm) fast food - in the process apparently making the girl behind the counter's day with my accent, although once again she thought it was Australian.  Also, impressively, I managed to carry a full paper cup of fizzy drink back to the campsite in one of the outside pockets of my panniers without spilling a drop.

As I was eating, a couple of lads turned up, one on an 800GS and another on a KLR650, having ridden up from Atlanta, Georgia.  Shortly afterwards the site owners invited us all down to the enormous campfire they'd just lit, where we swapped stories for a few hours before the rain started and chased us all to bed.

All campsites should be like this.

Blast from the past #6 - It's all about the company

Four years ago this weekend, in a wood somewhere in North Wales.  

My first time at the Dragon Rally, with a motley group of friends-from-internet-bike-forums.  It was also my first trip away on the Tenere, which I'd only bought a few weeks earlier.  We'd made a full weekend of it, staying at Thom's place near Pontypool on the Thursday night, riding up through mid-Wales to stay in Dolgellau on the Friday before heading to the Dragon site on Saturday.

This photo sums up why you'd ride half way across the country to go camping in February.  The riding's done, the tents are up, we've had a look around the site at the selection of wierd machinery that people ride to the Dragon - now there's nothing to do but wrap up warm, have a drink, get some hot food cooking, and talk shit about bikes.

In case you were wondering - yes, that is a birthday cake in the foreground, made by Debs (far right, extravagant knitwear) for Chelle (nearest the camera) and carried all the way from Oxford on the back of a bike.

I had a ticket for this year's rally, but in the end I couldn't work myself up to going - a couple of friends had dropped out, so I would have been braving the gales for a night on my own.  It just wouldn't have been the same.

Blast from the past #2

Summer 2008, somewhere in the depths of a Belgian forest, a few miles from the German border.  We (Sarah, her brother, and I) are a few days into a two week spin through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

We hadn't got off to a great start.  The GPZ500S that Sarah was riding - that's her in the picture - had blown an exhaust header gasket on the way down to Dover, leading to us spending an extra day on the French side of the channel applying half a tin of exhaust repair putty to stop it sounding like a tractor.  After this delayed start, we'd ridden the width of Belgium in a day, including a stop at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit along the way.

Our aim had been to get across the German border, then find somewhere to camp.  Embarrassingly, we had a bit of trouble actually finding Germany - our desire to stick to minor roads despite only having a very large scale map of Western Europe meant these things happened occasionally.  Eventually, after a long day on the bikes, our patience ran out just as a sign for a campsite appeared at a junction.

We had some misgivings as the road left the town and plunged into the forest, getting narrower and narrower and with no more signs, but after a few miles there was indeed a campsite, and after an interesting conversation with the proprietor - me trying a mixture of French and German, him what I assume to be Flemish - we were rewarded with a place to pitch our tents.

I took this photo as we were riding back out of the campsite the next day.  Don't worry, we managed to find Germany at the second attempt.