Monthly Archives: May 2008

Ride Planning and Communication Between Rider & Pillion

This ride report is ostensibly about a ride that we did on Saturday during the only reasonable weather of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. We set out to visit Bikers’ Gearbox at Matlock Bath to buy some new summer gloves to replace my old and very worn ones. We took our familiar route up the M1, along the A38 and A610 to the A6 from Ambergate into Matlock Bath. We parked a little further along the main street than we normally do and reversed the Heritage into the kerb at the side of a couple of other bikes outside a cafe and bar called “Charles”.  I believe that this must be fairly new as it had never previously registered on my radar, although a cafe in Matlock Bath is nothing out of the ordinary; there are lots of them.

As we pulled up, one of the staff from “Charles” spoke to us, encouraging us to try his place, but we were on a mission to visit the two bikers shops and were not going to be diverted. After a look round Adrian Peach’s shop, we went next door to Bikers’ Gearbox. With the help of the friendly staff there, we quickly found a suitable pair of gloves and Sue spotted an Oxford Tailpack hanging up in the shop. On asking the price, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was £24.99. We looked at another tailpack that the staff went out the back to fetch, but settled for the Oxford pack. This will come into its own when we head for Somerset in just a few weeks time.

With our purchases secured and packed into one of the panniers on the Heritage, our thoughts turned to lunch and we went into “Charles” (for which I can’t find a web link at the moment). We ordered that bikers’ staple of fish, chips and mushy peas with a couple of slices of bread on the side and a two teas. The tea turned up moments later in teapots with cups and saucers, followed by doorsteps of bread. Our meals were excellent and we were very happy with the food and the friendly service.

With the inner bikers satisfied, I was up for a ride and suggested to Sue that we head northwards rather than retrace the southerly route home. She agreed, although later may have come to regret this a little.

To be fair to Sue, she was a little “fragile” on Saturday because she had been out for a meal and team celebration the afternoon and early evening before with some work colleagues and had apparently made a heroic contribution to wine consumption.

Anyway, we headed north on the A6 and turned off just beyond Bakewell towards Monsal Head. After crawling up the road behind a low loader carrying an excavator, we spent a while on a bench looking over the amazing view of the valley and the old railway viaduct. (Take a look at Andy Savage‘s great pictures of this area.)

We spotted a road along the valley floor and I suggested to Sue that we could follow this and find a way back around towards Bakewell via the lanes. So we set off via the villages of Cressbrook and Litton. It was somewhere around here that I went wrong because I turned right at a main road where I should have gone left to circle back towards Bakewell. It was when we reached the Ladybower Dam (of Dambusters fame) that I realised that we were slightly off our (un)planned route.

The sign gave us a choice of heading for Manchester or Sheffield and I chose the latter as the least worst option, hoping for a turn off to get us back south. This was not to be and we found ourselves in the city centre before long where I picked up signs for Chesterfield. I was riding along, minding my own business, when a tap came on my shoulder and a hand pointing to the right ahead of us. “Great”, I thought, “she’s spotted a sign for Chesterfield that I had missed”. So I took the right fork at the traffic lights right in front of us.

This later proved to be my undoing because this helpful gesture from the pillion seat wasn’t a direction to a road, but a signal to look at the twin minarets on a large and very impressive mosque.

Some time later, on the road towards Bakewell, I realised the my mistake. Eventually we left Sheffield behind us and pulled up for coffee at a pub in the hills, on a roundabout where a road to Baslow and Chesterfield was signed. I think this was the Peacock.

After refreshment and recriminations, we headed down to Baslow and on to Chesterfield and to the M1 south and back home. I can say that neither of us enjoyed Sheffield very much, but the ride through the spectacular countryside scenery of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire was great. This was a route of a little over 100 miles in all and was a good one.

Ride Safe

Reflexology – Confessions of A Former Sceptic

Just occasionally, I have been called an old hippy. For the most part, I’ve been happy to go along with this – as long as it doesn’t impinge too much on my somewhat consumerist lifestyle. However, I have never really given a great deal of credibility to alternative medicine or therapy. However, a very good friend of ours, Kathy Thickpenny, must have some kind of magic in her hands because I have been persuaded in the past to go along to have my Chakra balanced using crystals – and felt that this had somehow benefited me.

This was nothing compared to my reaction to reflexology, though.

Kathy has been training in reflexology and asked Sue and I to be case studies for her. Naturally, I started out quite sceptical that having my feet poked and rubbed would have any effect.

I should explain at this point that my feet have never been my best feature. (I’m not even sure if I HAVE a best feature.) For many years I have had very poor circulation in my feet and this has left them cold and a very strange mottled blue colour. My doctor, the practice nurse and others have all remarked on this, but have never been sufficiently concerned about it to do anything, so I continued along life’s pathway holding on to the assumption that this is how it would always be.

Not so. The very first time that Kathy sat down and gave my feet “the treatment”, the mottling disappeared, they felt warrmer and I slept like a brick that night. I have been back half a dozen times since and the improvement in my circulation has surprised Kathy and me. In fact, Kathy has said several times that she wishes she’d take a photograph of my feet when we started to compare them with how they are now. (Don’t worry, these photos don’t exist, so I won’t inflict them on you.)

I have also been very impressed that Kathy has been able to identify other things that have been either temporarily or permanently ailing in other parts of my body by working on my feet. We have talked about energy flows and the like and I remain sceptical of such explanations, but I have to accept that there’s something in it because it works.

My own experience of this therapy has been during a very stressful time at work. Again, I am convinced that this has helped me to cope with the stress.

If you are anywhere in the Nottingham / Midlands area, you can find out more and contact Kathy vie her website.

Ride Safe

Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel

After a weekend when the bike hasn’t been out of the garage and we haven’t been near the railway, it’s time to pick up the third element of that strap line above and to tell you a little about the importance of music in our lives. For us, it’s a lot more than the “food of love“, it also provides us with part of the income that goes to support the bikes and trains. However, I have never been talented enough to be a performer, so many years ago I had to settle for putting together the fruits of other peoples’ talents into some kind of sequence and using my own limited skills to link it all together to entertain people.

That must be most long-winded description of being a DJ that you’ll find anywhere, but it’s pretty accurate.

My DJ career started when I was still in school when I did my first gig at a sixth form party in the school Hall at the old Long Eaton Grammar School. I wasn’t allowed to actually put the records onto the (single) turntable, but was entrusted with a microphone and stood in front of the curtains to introduce each song while the school band was getting ready to play.

From this auspicious start, I graduated to providing free entertainment alongside my friend and work colleague, Terry Francis. we both worked at the Marconi company in Chelmsford, Essex and our DJ experience was built up at the Christian Coffee Club in Rochford. This was really a church-based youth club that tolerated us for a few months. When I returned to the Midlands, I managed to save up enough cash to buy my own first set of equipment. I wish I had photos of that set-up, bought from RSC in Derby. Amazingly I still have the 100 Watt mono amplifier from that period.

I then built up a huge amount of experience, and an enormous following of disco-goers at Long Eaton Sea Scout HQ, where I was resident DJ almost every Saturday night for quite a number of years. There must be very many couples in the town who met at the Sea Scout discos and whose children may well now be members of the cubs, scouts or guides in the same building. [Long Eaton Sea Scouts appear to have no website, so I can’t provide a link.]

Along the way, I had always had an interest in radio and have had quite a lot of experience “on the air”. That’s another tale for another post.

As well as these residencies, I have always enjoyed taking the gear out to parties, weddings and other events and have probably played at all the venues in Long Eaton as well as very many in the surrounding areas.

After a year or so working in a record shop, I went to Nottingham University at the end of the 1970s where I did a lot of radio and live DJing.

When I moved into Nottingham several years ago, I decided to stop this nonsense and become a mature adult. I either sold or gave away my equipment, but couldn’t quite bring myself to get rid of my record collection (thank goodness). So when we decided to go back on the road, we had to re-equip with more modern gear and thousands of CDs! These days we still do the occasional purely mobile booking, but have taken on a residency at Lakeside. At some point, I must put up a post with some pictures of this remarkable building.

It’s amazing that more than 40 years on from that school disco, I am still able to feel the buzz that I have always had when I press the start button on a music track and see a crowd of people having a great time on the dance floor.

Ride Safe

Diesel Weekend From The Guard’s Compartment

On Sunday 12th May 2008, I was rostered to be the guard on the passenger train for Peak Rail’s Diesel Weekend.  The timetable planners had added an early trip departing from Darley Dale at 9:58 am, so I arrived at about 08:30 to ensure that everything under my control was ready in time. I went round the train to check that all was OK and realised that the coaches in the platform were not the ones that were going to be used because the Palatine Dining set (2 coaches) had been in use on the Saturday evening with four of the five other coaches in the train. This meant that there would have to be a shunt to take the Palatine set to Darley Dale South Yard and to bring another coach out to be put onto the train.
The crew of diesel loco 31270 arrived and the Palatine was soon uncoupled and moved away from the rest of the train. After a few minutes, they returned with a corridor coach that had been out of use for a long time, but had been fitted with new windows specially for use on the event. I am not quite enough of an enthusiast to have noted the number of this (or of any other coach), but I am sure that someone, somewhere will have done so.
The current issue of Peak Express, the magazine of the Association, has an excellent and thought provoking article by Mick Bond about carriage restoration and the impact on the railway of our present rate of progress on the carriage fleet. It does not make very comfortable reading.
Anyway, departure time approached and we were formed up with 31270 and D8 double-heading the train as we set off, on time, for Matlock.
31270 pictured at Matlock D8 at Church Lane Crossing
After a run-round by 31270, we departed on the (supposedly) non-stop run to Rowsley South. I say supposedly because we were stopped at the signal just south of Darley Dale Level Crossing to wait for the freight train coming south behind 37152.
37152 At Rowsley South
We should have realised that everything was not 100% OK when we were delayed by almost 10 minutes waiting for this train to arrive. Time is, of course, very important to railwaymen everywhere, even volunteers on heritage lines and the guard has a big responsibility on making sure that the train is ready to depart on time.
The other loco in use was Deltic D9016 Gordon Highlander. For much of the day these four locos were alternated between the passenger and freight train, but eventually the 37 was declared a failure and was moved, under its own power into Rowsley South Yard.
However, the other cause of delay was the time lost as the two trains passed at Darley Dale. It seems that it takes at least 5 minutes more than the allowance in the timetable to get the trains past each other, so with the longer run-round times as well, the timetable fell 21 minutes behind.
However, the whole team on the railway pulled together during the afternoon to the extent that we ended the day running bang on time again.
Diesel Gala visitors are a different breed of people to the usual families that come to Peak rail. They are very knowledgeable, incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about their interest in this area of railway preservation. I really enjoy being on the train and being part of a busy diesel weekend and for this one, the sunshine was a real bonus.
Ride safe

Summer Arrives and The Road Beckons

What great weather we’ve had this week.  If you’re a new visitor, that line alone will tell you that ChuffingHog must live in Britain, but it’s true, we’ve had a wonderful warm and sunny week, but I have also had an incredibly busy week at work and really haven’t been able to make the most of such favourable biking conditions.

However, you don’t have to compete for an Iron Butt award to enjoy getting out and riding, in a group or alone. Wednesday evening saw the first of this year’s ride outs organised by the staff at the Robin Hood Harley-Davidson dealership. These are open to all riders, including Sherwood Chapter members, but quite a number of the shop’s non-member customers also turn up for them. For this first ride of the season, there were probably about 50% chapter members in attendance. However, as this is not a chapter ride, there were none of the chapter’s Road Captains on duty, (and I don’t think that anyone there was a trained road captain in any case.) So we set out without a single yellow Hi-Vis jacket in the group. The ride was led by Richard from the shop, and other shop staff were on hand and I believe, riding at the back of the group.

After Richard’s briefing on the route and destination, we formed up roughly in the time-honoured HOG-style staggered formation, although this proved to be nowhere near as well disciplined as on a chapter ride.  I was surprised that each roundabout we negotiated had at least one biker blocking the oncoming traffic. It turned out that two chapter members had either been asked by the organisers, or had taken it on themselves to act as marshalls for this ride.

One of things that I like about group rides with HOG and the Sherwood Chapter, is the attention to safety that is totally ingrained into every aspect of the ride. However, over the past months I have noticed that “marshalling” group rides has become an excuse for one or two people, some of them road captains, some who are not, to blast up the outside of group to get to the next obstacle to shepherd us through it. This is despite the fact that the “Second Man Drop-Off” procedure covers roundabouts and junctions with far more attention to safety than being constantly overtaken by a marshal. I am convinced that this kind of riding is little more than an ego trip for those marshals.

The ride took a fairly short, but good enough route around South Nottinghamshire to finish at the Reindeer Inn in Hoveringham. This excellent pub provided Sue and I with a couple of cups of cappuccino, while the majority of the riders enjoyed a pint outside on the edge of the cricket field behind the pub. The shop staff had also arranged for sandwiches, chips and some outstanding chicken wraps to be served to us. We enjoyed some good conversation as well as good food before the group’s attention turned to moving on as the sun started to set. There was some debate about whether to go on to bike night at MFN, or to Hooters. Along with a few others, we decided to head for home.

Thursday and Friday were also warm and sunny, but all too often work gets in the way and it wasn’t until today, Saturday, that we pulled on the leather trousers and headed off out. We had some shopping to pull in on the way out of Nottingham and headed out via the A453 through Clifton towards the M1. We crossed the M1 junction and rode around East Midlands Airport to the aeropark.We sat in the sun for a while before making a move. As we left their car park, the Heritage was admired by one of the aeropark volunteers.

It’s amazing how often people comment on the gleaming chrome of a Harley, even when its rider is thinking that it needs another clean.

From the airport, we set off along the route of the old A453 through the villages of Isley Walton and Breedon-on-the-Hill. We turned left in Breedon and followed the lanes through to Worthington and then across to join the A6 near Hathern before returning to Nottingham via Sutton Bonington and Gotham. This is an area that we don’t ride very often, so it was good to be out in some different countryside.

After a total of just over 50 miles, we arrived back at home.  

Ride Safe

May Day Bank Holiday

We set off at 10:00 am to go to Peak Rail to sell raffle tickets on the train to raise some funds for the Darley Dale Down Building. This is a grade 2 listed building on Darley Dale Station that was abandoned when the railway from Matlock to Buxton was closed in 1968 and has been neglected ever since. The railway and the charitable trust are keen to restore it to use, but it will cost a lot of money – about quarter of a million pounds.

Our contribution today was to travel up and down the line, talking to the railway’s passengers and trying to persuade them to part with a pound for a strip of five tickets. The prize was a very large cuddly toy dog. Almost every family on the train was happy to join in, with early contributions from Australian visitors and a lone traveller from the USA. It was great to talk to people from as far afield in the UK as Stoke on Trent, Kettering, Manchester and Essex.

After a lot of walking up and down the train all day, punctuated by several mugs of tea, two bacon cobs and a slice of quiche from Rowsley buffet, we asked a passenger on the last trip to draw the winning ticket. As we pulled into Rowsley South station for the last time, the winner happened to be sitting on the platform, so it was great to be able to hand over the prize straight away. However, we had devised a cunning plan in case the winner had already left the railway – we had collected a name and phone number from everybody who bought a ticket and we had planned that the railway’s office staff would contact the winner and send the prize out by post.

On thing that Sue and I always find a bit of a rip-off with lots of raffles is when we are sold a strip of five tickets and the whole strip is put into the draw, effectively making it a single ticket. Sue and I were having none of this, so we asked each buyer to write their name and phone number on the first ticket and we copied this onto the other four before separating the individual tickets. Sure, it’s lots of work, but we both feel strongly that it is the only honest way that we can justify asking £1 for 5 tickets.

Anyway, we raised £87 pounds, not a huge proportion of the total needed, but it is more than we would have had if we’d stayed at home. We also rode over to the railway on the Heritage, making this the fourth consecutive day that we had ridden the bike over this weekend. With a dull, overcast start to the day, I almost left the bike in the garage and took the car, but when the sun came out and it turned into a warm spring day, the bike was the correct choice.

We left the railway at about 5:30pm and headed back to find the centre of Matlock was a traffic jam. We originally decided to head for home, but today was the first evening ride out of the year by Mansfield area group of Sherwood Chapter. It was a very easy decision to decide to ride to Mansfield and join the group who were having dinner in the Oak Tree. I had sausage and mash, Sue tucked into her customary roast chicken and we chatted to the group that grew to a respectable size as 7pm approached.

At the appointed hour, it must have been had a dozen or more bikes that set off behind our Chapter Director, Pete Clifford. He took an interesting roundabout route through the Trent-side villages before crossing the river at Gunthorpe Bridge. We then rode to the Castle Barge, a floating pub in Newark. After some good conversation, we all started to set off on our separate ways homewards as the night was starting to draw in and some of our number, Sam in particular, were starting to feel the cold. We arrived home almost 12 hours afters setting out to greeted by a hungry cat, Misty.

We are getting well into the riding season now and it is only a couple of days until the first ride out of the year organised by the shop. This, of course, is our chapter’s sponsoring Harley-Davidson dealership. With this ride out due to take place on Wednesday evening, that only leaves Tuesday night to give the bike a good wash before then. I am full of good intentions, but I’ll have to let you know how I go on in reality.

Ride safe,

Friends and Family

Two posts in a day seems a little over-enthusiastic, but it’s great to be able to catch up with a few of things I wanted to write about, but haven’t had time. As I said yesterday, I admire the many bloggers who are able to keep right up to date and I am trying to emulate them in this post.

However, I still need to rewind to Friday when we went (by car) to visit Phil and Kathy Thickpenny. They have been very good friends of ours for getting on for 15 or 20 years. We originally met through our mutual interest in radio; a subject that is still Phil’s main passion. Over the past few years, Kathy has trained in a number of alternative therapies and provides these under the banner of Ray Of Light. This was the main reason for our visit this week because Kathy is now training in reflexology.

This was my third visit for treatment as a case study for Kathy’s training course and although I am a hardened sceptic about what I have been known to call “hippie mumbo jumbo”, I have to admit that there must be something in reflexology. I have lived with cold feet for years caused by poor circulation. After my very first treatment with Kathy, my feet were much less discoloured and have been a lot warmer. I also slept like a  log after each of my three treatments so far. I was just a little sad to be told that I have just one more “case study” visit. Sue (the domestic authority), is also a case study and gets as much as I do from the experience. I have already floated the idea with her that we should become “proper” customers for Ray of Light and I live in hope that this may be allowed.

Phil, meanwhile, has become a key member of Mansfield Community Radio, which is set to restart broadcasting on the Internet soon and has aspirations to appear on Nottinghamshire’s airwaves as well. Phil has become the organisation’s main fundraiser and has set himself some ambitious funding targets. If enthusiasm and energy could be packaged, Phil would have to be locked in a bank vault. He buzzes with passion for the project and has tried, on a number of occasions now, to persuade Sue and I to join him. As we really don’t have time, I have settled for a promise to help out, as a one-off,  with some of the geeky equipment stuff, if and when he needs some help.

This promise also reminded me about my own commitment to the Derwent and Wye Valley Railway Trust, a commitment that I need to face up to very soon and to explain more fully here when time permits. If you, dear reader, are involved with this project, I don’t need to explain and if you’re not, please be patient for a little longer.

Saturday’s brilliant ride is the subject of today’s previous post, but the Harley was wheeled out of the garage again this afternoon because we had been invited for Sunday lunch at the home of my eldest son Gareth and his partner, Emma. They live in Long Eaton, about 30 minutes from us and we arrived on the bike – heard before we were seen with the Stage One Screaming Eagle exhaust bellowing up and down their quiet street.

After and excellent meal prepared by Emma, we told Gareth that we had brought a spare helmet if he would like a ride around the block on the pillion. I understood that young people (he is 22) were supposed to be cool and aloof. Not Gareth, he jumped at the chance for a ride, so we weaved around the back streets of the town for a few minutes before reaching a section of 40mph road where I gave the Heritage’s throttle a twist with the expected sound accompaniment from the pipes. On arrival back at their home, Emma decided that she didn’t want to follow Gareth’s example, but when we decided later to all pay a visit to my middle son Daniel and his partner, Sophie, Gareth was quick to accept Sue’s offer to give up her seat for the trip across town to Sawley.

As soon as we arrived, Daniel (aged 20 and slightly more cool than Gareth) was keen to take over the spare helmet and Sue’s gloves to have his turn on the back of the bike. His ride around Sawley also took in a section of slightly faster road and both the lads were visibly impressed.

It’s great that dad can occasionally still come up with something worth joining in.

After another mug of tea back at Daniel and Sophie’s, Sue and I decided to head off home via Ilkeston. Sue then spent some time making cards while I caught up with more Sherwood Chapter emails and, of course, this tale of our adventures.

It’s worthy of note that four-star petrol at the Texaco station on Breaston was “only” £110.9 per litre, a saving of 2p per litre on our local Tesco filling station.

If the weather holds, we’re on the bike again tomorrow for a day’s volunteering at Peak Rail. If it doesn’t we’ll be in the car. I’ll let you know – eventually.

Ride Safe