Monday, May 25, 2015

Sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned

The doorbell rang and the courier stood there, holding a shoe-box size package with my name on it. I knew what was inside.

I carefully opened the box and took out the contents. It was a wooden model of a scooter. Most people would not give it a second glance, but it meant a lot to me. This had been half-way around the world and held by many people who all had one thing in common. We all liked and respected the man this model had come to represent. That man was Bob, who also went by the name of BobScoot. I am writing this on the one thing that tied all of us together, Bobs blog.

Like many, I first met Bob electronically, when he either found my own blog, or I found his. Soon, we starting reading each other’s writings and probably like many, I was drawn to not just what he wrote, but the way he wrote it. Bob poured his heart and soul into his blog. Interesting, funny, moving and always full of pictures both good and ordinary, his blog postings told us about the man, what he liked, how he felt, his travels, and of course the odd things peculiar to Bob, like his pink Crocs, plus his wish to nearly always include a picture of his feet.

Many people followed Bobs blog. He seemed to be at the centre of like-minded people who enjoyed writing about their motorcycle travels. He was the one person we all read about, as his words and pictures were eagerly read many around the world.

Bob often offered his help. I remember I was about to go on a long motorcycle trip and wanting to film and then edit some videos, then this near stranger called Bob who lived thousands of miles away in Canada, offered his advice which was very gratefully accepted. I think that was typical of the man – he helped anybody that he could. He certainly helped me on a few occasions.

Bob died nearly a year ago. It was sudden and a shock. No doubt it hit his family very hard as I think there was no clue he was ill. I remember hearing the news and sitting there numb, as a good friend had been taken from us. Bobs last post on his blog was very typical – on holiday with his wife Yvonne, he posted pictures and words about the two of them driving his Corvette around Kentucky. I really miss reading his posts.

I met Bob just once. When I rode around the USA I didn’t go near to Vancouver where Bob lived, but I regretted that and afterwards made a special trip, renting a bike in Seattle, and rode to his house. Bob and Yvonne were as kind as I had expected, showing me around, taking me to dinner, letting me stay at their house and genuinely wanting to spend some time with another road traveller. Bob did that a lot. I enjoyed reading about his meetings with other moto-bloggers all over America. Not only did Bob read others’ blogs, but he wanted to meet the people as well. What a thoroughly nice guy he was. I remember he laughed when I arrived in Vancouver wearing a copy of his trademark footwear – pink crocs. Bob and I walked around Vancouver both wearing our amusing pink crocs. I am not sure what people thought, but I can imagine!

So, in honour of the man by those that knew him, this model, appropriately called ScooterBob, has been travelling around the world and has been taken to various places to be photographed with and by the people that knew Bob. It is a terrific idea and I really enjoyed seeing the mementos that people have also placed in ScooterBob’s box.

It seemed obvious to me what picture I should include first on this posting – here I am with one of my bikes, wearing my pink crocs, of course…..
ScooterBob, just outside London
While I live near London in England, I took ScooterBob to St Tropez in France on a motorcycle trip as that seemed the right thing to do. We rode from London through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and back into France to reach the Mediterranean Sea. On the way, Sonja (who knew Bob as well as most as she also lived in Vancouver for a while) joined our group as we made our way through Germany. I had intended to post many pictures of ScooterBob in these countries, but as the title of the post says, sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned. Rather embarrassingly, I managed to accidently delete most of my photographs of the trip. Initially, I was horrified, but in hindsight, that is not a bad thing, as it has allowed me to concentrate on writing something about Bob and remember him, rather than show pictures of where ScooterBob was taken. 

So, here are just a few pictures, that don’t do justice to the Bob who took such great pictures himself. 

Bless you Bob, you are missed by many.

ScooterBob meets the Leading Ladies

ScooterBob with Sonja, myself, and some new friends.

This would have been a great picture.  Thanks to Sonja for snapping me, snapping ScooterBob

ScooterBob at the H-D rally in St Stopez, picture courtesy of Sonja 
ScooterBob is now travelling once more, on his way to Shelia.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

ἐπίλογος να σκοοτέρ bob

It had been a pleasure and privilige to have been able to host ScooterBob and knowing Gary France was keen to take him on tour to France within days I decided to take SB for a quick wizz around my hometown Knutsford prior to dispatching him to London.

Knutsford has many eclectic buildings created by Richard Harding Watt, mostly in an italianate style.  Here we see Lisa from Atlanta and Mrs Nikos posing in front of the King's Coffee House and Gaskell Memorial Tower.

Pigeons and other birds sit on the Gaskell Memorial Tower looking down on ScooterBob.
For the trainspotters out there: Knutsford is served by Knutsford railway station which is situated on the Mid-Cheshire Line running from Chester to Manchester (via Altrincham). The station was built in 1862 by the Cheshire Midland Railway. The CMR was absorbed into the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) in August 1867, this entity continuing to serve Knutsford until nationalisation on 1 January 1948. The train service to Manchester was re-routed via a slower route when the Manchester Metrolink trams took over the CLC direct line between Altrincham and Manchester, with the heavy rail service being re-routed via Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly zzzzzzzzzzz.

A touch of off roading in typical spring flowers

As you probably know, Knutsford was the place in which General George S. Patton, set up shop shortly before the Normandy invasion, and from where he delivered a speech perceived to be critical of the Soviets, and to have "slap(ped) the face of every one of the United Nations except Great Britain", which nearly ended his career.

Tatton Park, this is where I take my constitutionals. It is a large park immediately joining onto Knutsford and formerly the estate of the Egerton family with their baronial seat Tatton Hall. Shooting at harmless animals is not usually allowed here - Venison is normally available at the local Aldi supemarket.
The other side of Tatton Park is a good spot for plane spotting!
After the park we take a stroll back through the town to buy ScooterBob a farewell capucinno.

The first penny farthing museum and integral cafe - this is a where the philosophers meet hidden away in the centre of Knutsford!
I'm sure that BobSkoot would have been fascinated by these gentelmen's sporting bicycles! ScooterBob looks rather overwhelmed.
Gluten free chocolate brownie, honey cake and capucinno.
A difficult and challenging pose this, I require oxygen.
King Canute (Knútr in Old Norse) lends his name to Knutsford where he got his trousers wet in 1020 on his way to watch a home game of MU at Old Trafford (allegedly).
Well that's it from me - thanks for reading and goodbye (or is it au revoir?) ScooterBob.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

BMW Triumphant - ScooterBob goes to Yorkshire


Bob Skoot had acquired a rather nice blue BMW R1200R and despite concerns about transmission failure had undertaken an impressive transcontinental journey.  I asked him in January 2014 how he had found the bike - he replied "My BMW R1200R is a rocket on the freeway when you need to cover many miles. Instant power anytime, and also instant brakes should you need to slow down, plus it's smaller and lighter than my Vstrom. I like the shaft drive vs Chain maintenance but it has a smaller fuel tank. My Vstrom can go much farther on a tank with 23L vs only 17L for my Beemer. That equates to 100 kms less per tank

I bought the Beemer for this trip. It also has Traction Control and Tire Pressure Senors so I though much safer for a long ride like this

Cup cakes were very good. I wouldn't mind some more, right about now . . ."

It was therefore fortuitous that ScooterBob's short time with me coincided with the Annual general meeting of the BMW  Club of United Kingdom and Ireland (this being the officially approved motorcycle club) and this  year the meeting would be held in Harrogate Yorkshire (some 100 miles over the other side of the Pennine mountain chain from Knutsford, Cheshire where I live).

I normally attend this event as my first bike tour of the year and it enables me to visit new places and meet friends whilst winding up club luddites who resist "social media". There is normally a fun event organised  - last year we visted the Metisse factory------> STORY HERE.

The journey in best British racing track tradition (northern hemisphere) was a clockwise route starting bottom left at Knutsford

I decided to take an initially north westerly route to Blackburn and cross the Pennines near Skipton thus avoiding the Friday afternoon drag through the northern powerhouse of Manchester to Leeds.  Anyhow it's always a thrill to cross the Thelwall viaduct over the Manchester Ship canal on a motorcycle in strong wind. To get back into the swing of UK motoring on densely packed motorways and twisty hill roads with straying sheep I planned this modest 200 mile mixed road circular route.

The off - Luckily I had fitted the beak extender to my BMW R1200GS and you can see the remains of last year's flies too.
No journey in England is complete without a stop at a Little Chef especially for those with bursting bladders.  I made it to Skipton OK.
Job done and afternoon tea ordered - a far flung experience from the Olympic breakfast noramlly served.

Part of the joy of writing my blog is the ancilliary research undertaken to illustrate and inform with interesting discoveries made. Whilst I was aware that  the Little Chef chain of diners has changed hands many times over the years (one change in which scramble eggs was removed from the menu) I discover it is now owned by a Kuwaiti company---------> READ THE DETAILS HERE

The proverbial selfie during the digestion of a stale scone...
Somewhere on the moors 19 miles from Harrogate there is a chance of an ice cream just as the Tomtom blew up
Further along the A59 I come to the aid of a group of cheery scooterists from Wigan - when I see the magneto in pieces I wish them well on their continuing  journey to Newcastle...
ScooterBob does some bonding with Pricey 46 and that is one hell of a starting lever!
We arrive at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate and the sun shines - the sun always seems to shine on the east of the Pennines in contrast to where I live on the west!
The club is disorganised on a regional basis, and this time it's the Yorkshire section hoisting the banner.
Last year the Tour de France cycle race came to Yorkshire as this hewn out rotten tree trunk depicts in Harrogates's beautiful Montpellier Quarter.
The daffodils are blooming marvellous(ly)!
Later that evening we inbibe at the Wintergardens which is now a Wetherspoons pub - local lass and attentive barperson Meata Baciukiewicz serves us a guest ale (can't recall what it was)
Even later that evening and miraculously back at the hotel, club president Mike poses with Scooterbob.
Mrs Mike and Cynthia (of round the world on an R80 GS fame ---> READ IT HERE) fight over ScooterBob)
Following the rather boring procedings of the AGM, Leeds man Noel Whittall gave a presentation of his various adventures ridng a 1918 Triumph H. See brief video-----> here

BobSkoot poses next to the superior to Lucas Bosch generator and I rush him away before an oil drip falls.

Bob from Belfast bought Tubby Balls formerly and briefly my BMW K (thank you Richard M) 75 - the electric screen still worked until recently

On the way home, following a drag of a journey through grim towns we hit the Peak District National Park  south of Huddersfield on route to Buxton.  Passing through Holmfirth I remember the TV series "Last of the Summer Wine".
The guys in the van had been flying model aircraft off the hills up to the point we arrived - they then brewed up in the caravan due to the sub zero wind chill!
Here we are nearly home at the Cat and Fiddle Inn - BobSkoot enjoyed my flowing cornering lines on the ubiquitous "most dangerous road" in England------>see here

This was great weekend and I can say that carrying BobSkoot with me enhanced the social interaction considerably!

In the next episode we ride Penny Farthing cycles!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

ScooterBob in England - the Prologue

You ask me where to begin?

I have been looking back at my blog to remember when I first met Bob - earliest records analysed with the latest dendrochronology techniques point to July 2009.  There nestling amongst the grafitti scratchings from here today bloggers and spammers (e.g. Affer, "Lady" Camilla Jessop, Percy Weiper, Alice Scradcza etc) was a thoughtful comment from Bob thanking me for a Greek poem.  This was the first of many comments we exchanged, mine mostly admiring his pink Crocs(tm), his trying to figure out what I was going on about.  I'm sorry we never met in person. This is the first of three blog posts.

My sun shall rise in the East

On April 7th I received an email from Geoff James located somewhere in the far east (or is New Zealand in the  far west?) advising that ScooterBob had been dispatched into the global mail system.  Good, I thought, that will give me several weeks to figure out some plans.
In record time, on 10th April ScooterBob arrives in England! Tomkins is intrigued.
I knew that Gary wanted to take ScooterBob on an amazing road trip in May and I had plans to visit Harrogate just before then so the early arrival was a bonus. That weekend I was planning to drive down South with various family and friends calls to make - so ScooterBob came too.

Your friend is close by your side

This was a Yeti trip spent mostly on crowded motorways.
We make it to Box Hill in Surrey (South West of London) at the scene of my first ever blogger meeting with Highwaylass in 2007.

FLASHBACK to 2007:
Daily Telegraph motoring section readers: Clarky in the middle was my "financial adviser" until he retired in style to South America.

Box Hill is the highest hill of the North Downs - interested readers can look here------->BOX HILL,

Before the arduous ascent of Box Hill up Zig Zag road ScooterBob enjoys staple carbohydrates and a cappucino with a free copy of Motorcycle Monthly.
View from the summit: Next stop is Gatwick, where I will meetup with lifelong buddy Charles.

Due to ScooterBob being a little tired, I forgot to bring him to meet up with Charles and he rested at the hotel whilst we enjoyed another cappucino at Redhill aerodrome.  Charles flew an Airbus around the world in 23 days back in 2007.

Charles  wishing ScooterBob happy travels...
Somehow I'll find my way home<-------PLAY ME!

In the next installment ScooterBob visits Harrogate with BMW motorcycles as a theme.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ScooterBob the petrolhead (episode 3)

With the Northern Hemisphere spring getting underway and the reverse season starting in NZ, ScooterBob thought it was high time we got out for some more fun before he heads back north of the equator.  The first scheduled outing was to be on the Street Triple but the Chief Executive Officer (aka Jennie) decided that as the day was calm, sunny and the tides were right; a spot of fishing would be in order amongst the offshore islands.

Those who followed my previous exchanges with Bob Leong about my lack of fishing prowess compared with Jennie and his comments about my "lucky red fishing shorts", will not be surprised that SB insisted on coming along to see what went on for himself!

ScooterBob observing the traditional husband and wife fishing battle

Conditions among the islands off the Coromandel coast amidst the commercial mussel farms were simply breathtaking and it really didn't matter whether we caught anything or not ....... and if you believe that, you'll believe anything - bragging rights mean everything in this household!

Not a breath of wind among the commercial mussel beds - sheer magic

First strike to me - a big stingray but after a 10 minute losing struggle, it was easier to cut the line and let the ray go about its business and resume the hunt for snapper.  I'm sure that Bob was looking down and grinning.

A losing tussle with a stingray

To cut a long story short, Jennie predictably wiped the floor with me with some nice pan-sized snapper and the lucky red shorts weren't so lucky.  So what's new - at least I get to share in the spoils.  ScooterBob wisely said nothing about my score or shorts.

Trying not to look too smug.....

With fishing out of the way, it was time for an ummm....... "brisk" trip up the coast on 2 wheels with SB on board.  First stop was the picturesque Waitete Bay with not a soul in sight.

Stop hiding SB, the ride wasn't that quick.....

SB striking an arty pose with a Shoei

Checking out the tidal creek

You go on ahead and I'll just follow along.....

After Waitete Bay, it was just a short ride up to the mini-settlement of Colville.  With the Coromandel Peninsula having a strong arts community and lots of alternative lifestylers, including a handful of communes, the iconic Colville Store caters for a wide range of local needs.  If you need mantles for some obscure brand of gas lamp, they have it!  If you're vegan or vegetarian, they have a massive selection of grains, flours and seeds for sprouting - a whole room of them in fact.  It's a store with character!  The post office next next door must be one of the smallest on the planet.  Quite often, there's a whiteboard outside saying "parcel for Joe Smith" or similar - utterly charming.

Duelling Banjo country......

Colville Post Office 

Colville was the turn point for home and the ride was done at a more leisurely pace down the coast than on the way up!  The Peninsula is known for its arty mailboxes as well as great fishing so ScooterBob just had to stop and admire the giant fish mailbox at the small community of Papa Aroha.

Not a sight you see every day!

Feeling comfortable that SB wouldn't want to report any overly enthusiastic riding, it was time to introduce our Canadian scooter visitor to the upholders of law in our community.  John Morrissey is the Officer in Charge of Coromandel Police Station and the two officers have a heck of a rural area to cover.  Both are keen riders with John having recently sold his big Kawasaki cruiser and bought an even bigger Triumph Rocket 3!

A purely social call!

John cementing Canadian-NZ relationships

Out once more in the district, it was time to see some more sights.  One oddity is the wild pigs on the predominantly dirt 309 Road which goes over the Coromandel Range. European tuskers were thought to have been introduced into NZ by Capt James Cook during early exploration in the 1760's.  Normally reclusive and aggressive if cornered, these pigs are fed by a local eccentric "Stu" and have become pretty tame, simply coming and going as they please.  ScooterBob is certainly seeing some unusual sights around the place!

Not an everyday sight for SB!

The Coromandel area is known for its aquaculture, green-lipped mussels and Pacific oysters in particular.  A short ride was taken with Scooterbob round to the far side of Coromandel harbour to see the mussel harvesting boats unloading at Te Kouma wharf ready for shipping fresh mussels to domestic and overseas markets.

Te Kouma Sugarloaf Wharf

Jennie had taken my 4x4 to haul some stuff about and as I needed to pick up supplies in town, it was a good opportunity to take ScooterBob out for a run in her wheels.  It was also totally appropriate as Bob and Yvonne had also owned an MX5 Miata in the past.  Fellow moto-blogger and close friend of Bob's, Sonja  had also driven Jennie's car as well as ridden the Street Triple in 2012, when she was last in NZ.  The sun was out and the tide was in when we drove back along the causeway to our house - the perfect photo op!

SB looking at the Coromandel equivalent of Arkwright's store in the UK TV sitcom "Open All Hours"

ScooterBob on four wheels!

The road round the Coromandel Peninsula is one of the North Island's great motorcycle roads, 200+ km of twists and turns by the sea and over the Coromandel Range.  On Sonja's last visit mentioned above, she rode my Street Triple in the company of Roger over the famous Coromandel Hill to the picturesque beach settlement of Whangapoua.  That post is on Sonja's blog here and contains remarks by Bob about wanting to fit into Sonja's luggage.   It was therefore an appropriate time for a return visit to introduce ScooterBob to Steve Ferguson, the owner of the Whangapoua beach store.  Steve is a very keen cyclist , even travelling every couple of years to France to ride some of the stages that the Tour de France is held on!  He is also a long-term motorcycle enthusiast and currently owns a Triumph Bonneville America  cruiser.

Steve and his Triumph America with ScooterBob

Bob Leong had long followed the journey of close mate Roger Fleming and I through the various stages of advanced rider training with the NZ branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists .  He offered encouragement in the tough times but also pulled our legs unmercifully and I still look back through his responses to our IAM posts and laugh.

It was only fitting that ScooterBob should meet some of the Auckland region members of IAM at our end of month run last Sunday.  The ride from home up the Auckland Motorway was in some of the worst rain conditions ever encountered but you know what?  Just under an hour before the actual training rides started, the skies turned blue and the roads dried out - maybe ScooterBob had worked his magic!  All the riders were touched by the ScooterBob story and were delighted to mark his visit to NZ!

Roger and Geoff centre with ScooterBob.  IAM Chief Examiner Philip McDaid right foreground

That's the end of ScooterBob's stay in NZ and he will shortly be winging his way to England to meet Nick Laskaris of Nikos World .  What a privilege and fun it's been to take part in  ScooterBob's travels and to to honour Bob Leong.  Travel well SB and very much looking forward to the next part of the story!