Sunday 29 December 2013

Last run of the year?

I hope you all had a great Christmas, I did although as usual more alcohol consumed than is good for me! After the last few weeks of stormy weather we took advantage of a break in the weather today to get out on the Norton. We would have used our BMW's on such a mucky day but due to general incompetence by the shippers they are still enjoying the heat in a Miami warehouse! Hopefully leaving the USA on the 4th of January so with a bit of luck we'll get them back before February.
Fiona mapped out a great route using some very small back roads around West Lothian and the Borders, due to the Norton being over 40 years old its electrics can't cope with our heated gear so bloody cold was the order of the day! Because of the Stormy weather over the last few weeks many of the roads were flooded and had water running across them so it really was a mini adventure albeit a cold one! Next week weather permitting we have the Lothians and Borders Classic club "Frostbite" run so today was a good practise! I hope 2014 brings you all happiness and good health!  Lang may yer lum reek!
Yes damned cold but at least a glimmer of sun at this bit! Happy New Year!

Friday 13 December 2013

Friday moan

As I keep saying still struggling to cope with life back here but something else is eating away at me, since I've returned I'm astounded at the state of our country, how low its sunk.
First thing was Edinburgh Council who we contacted the first week back to let them know we were back in residence so we can pay the Council tax at the correct rate (we got a 10% discount for not being here, joke or what) they are impossible to contact so all correspondence has to be done by E mail, they state they will answer within 3 weeks. Three weeks to answer an E mail, surely that has to be a joke? As it happens despite 3 E mails they haven't answered any in 5 weeks so take a bow Edinburgh Council for a great example of how inefficient and useless you have managed to become.
While I'm on the subject, refuse collection is now only every 2 weeks but you can recycle your old food, paper, glass, garden waste by putting them in the appropriate bucket and leaving it out whenever. So before we had 1 collection a week, a truck & 5 guys would take our stuff away, now we have about 5 trucks and god knows how many guys stalking round the doors to collect your carefully sorted shite! Green, I don't think so, another example of ideas in action, another big fail.
I used to work for O2 the mobile phone company, used to pride ourselves on Network Quality, its now a joke, unable to make or receive calls most of the time and when you do get through the voice quality is shocking, complaining is a waste of time as they have outsourced the call centres and obviously dumbed down the customer service people!
And finally I just found out 10 minutes ago that our bikes are still in Miami, seems somebody "forgot" about them. How useless is that? 7 weeks on and they are still exactly where we left them, the best we can hope for is our bikes and gear will be back at the end of January so that being the case they will have taken over three Months, and I've just found out it takes only 5 days to get to the Moon!!
I suppose what I'm saying on this dark Friday December afternoon is that no matter where you look you see indifference and uselessness on a grand scale, kind of depressing isn't it? Now where did I put the whisky.......... 

Our bikes, still in Miami.....after 7 weeks

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Nearly Summer!

Only 10 days to the winter solstice here in Scotland, the shortest day of the year. After that the days will become longer (thank God) and we will be heading towards Spring. Work on the book continues very slowly as does work on the presentation! Some garage work being done as the temperature isn't too bad, the AJS is on the bench in an attempt to get it charging. No sign yet of our bikes coming back to the UK which is a bit of a worry but hopefully we'll hear soon.
Sunset starts early around these parts at this time of year, a nice day today but darkness coming in already at just after 3pm.......

Tuesday 3 December 2013

A Bike moving day

Trying to re adjust to "normal" life is still a little difficult, I suppose the problem is when you come back from a big trip and return to your old life it is just that, your old life. Not a complaint though, it has been great meeting up with family and friends and i'm sure they're bored already with our stories. I've started working on the book of the trip but thats going slower than I anticipated because "stuff" gets in the way, also working on a presentation which I'm hoping to be ready early January, so if you fancy the two of us boring your bike club or bike shop (or anything really) we will be available from January on, my contact details are on the profile blurb.
Today assisted as always by Alex I relocated a couple of my Nortons for a while to make room for my AJS which probably deserves a better home. Also hoping to hear something about or BMW's shortly which are hopefully getting near the UK by now (or maybe they are still in a warm warehouse in Miami, wouldn't blame them!)
Norton's about to go into hiding for Christmas.....

AJS about to get used hopefully!

Saturday 23 November 2013

Cold but dry

A nice day today, sun was out but by 10am the frost was still evident. Took the Commando across Edinburgh with Fi on the back to visit people then back by Cramond for a photo. Really cold as I was trying to look cool with my leather jacket on rather than the "adventure" gear, problem was trying to look cool led me to be bloody freezing. Can't complain though, a nice day oot as they say.
Norton in the setting Winter sun
Cramond Island, the site of many a rescue, people go over the causeway and forget high tide cuts it off, then a panic call to the coastguard. Usually kids having illicit parties
Seagull enjoying the last of the days Rays
Norton enjoying the last of the days Rays!

Saturday 16 November 2013

Bonnie Scotland

After almost a week back home it was time for a visit to my favourite place in Scotland, Applecross. This small village in the North West of Scotland has an attraction for most people who visit, those that aren't drawn back in my opinion have no soul.
Wonderful to catch up with our many friends there and to savour (or gulp) several whisky's. It was also a reminder just how stunning Scotland is, we have seen many amazing sights on our travels but here you see the majesty of nature without having to do thousands of miles in between attractions. I laughed as we crossed into the Cairngorms National park, no toll booth collecting money, nature here is free for all to enjoy and is all the better for it.
To our many friends we made in the last year, get yourself over the pond and visit us here, if your a motorcyclist I can guarantee the best roads anywhere, I can't guarantee the sunshine but hey ho you can't have it all.
Heading to Loch Laggan from Dalwhinnie and no we didn't stop at the Distillery
Applecross Bay
And again
Mountains keeping their dark secrets hidden
Stunning even in the cold and semi dark
OK it's not a bear or Moose or Elk but still impressive wildlife
Old machinery being used and not replaced, real environmental care
OK so I like sunsets
Fiona enjoying the air!

Tuesday 12 November 2013

All Roads lead to the Moon Episode 15

Well here it is the last video of our trip, hopefully it won't be barred from too many places (You tube get snotty about using commercial music on the vid's)
I hope you find it entertaining and interesting, not so much bike content but a reasonable view on our last few Months on the road.
Good news is I spent most of yesterday getting my 70 Norton Roadster ready for its annual test and its booked in on Saturday, looking forward to riding the Snorton Norton again

Monday 11 November 2013

Back Home

Well thats the end of the wonderful "All roads lead to the Moon" adventure, 30,000 miles, 13 countries, 28 states in the USA, 3 provinces in Canada, a pretty amazing experience. First I'd like to thank everybody that followed the blog (and hope you continue to do so, life isn't over yet!) and a huge genuine thanks to all the wonderful people we met on the road, shared a conversation with, shared a beer with, shared a wedding with and put up with having two slightly smelly bikers doss in your homes!
It may be a bit of a cliche but the trip was life changing in that it opened my eyes further to the huge injustices in this world to both humans and animals but more of that in the book when it comes out.
The bikes at the end of the day got us to the end so thats a positive, we put them through their paces and we showed up a few weaknesses but I have to say the biggest weakness was with the dealers themselves, EVERY time the bikes were in a dealers they needed some kind of remedial work by myself to make them right, simple things sometimes but not the point, must try harder my BMW.
The big success stories were;
Metzler Tourance tyres, 3 rears and 2 fronts each and NO punctures, the fronts are still good!
Cardo Systems Scala Rider intercoms, worked amazingly for the whole year and were invaluable.
Scottoilers which ensured that despite the harsh conditions we put the chains through we only changed the chain & sprockets once in the whole trip.
The Exped camping mattresses, so good that they were often more comfortable than many hotel beds.
Our ARD Case Panniers, stayed waterproof, secure and in one piece despite the bikes being dropped and mine getting side swiped by a truck in Peru.
With the exception of Scottoiler providing suport and oil we received no help from any of the above so these are genuine testimonials.
We now need to re adjust to normal life, quite what that is I'm not sure but just to help we're off to Applecross later this week to chill so more photos from my favourite place in Scotland soon.
Finally a big thank you to Alex Dickson who looked after my admin, provided tech support and organised for our car to be ready for us when we returned, Danny & Jackie (Fi's Mum & Dad) who did the same for her and my brother John for loking after the admin on my fleet of bikes while we were away.
Welcome home, wet & cold, just as I remembered it! 

Sunday 3 November 2013

Hanging around in South Florida

We escaped the ship on Friday morning, disembarkation wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and got the shuttle bus to Miami Airport to pick up our hire car. We were met with indifferent service from the counter staff at Dollar / Thrifty and directed to the floor below to pick up our car. We were met with a scene of complete chaos, the system wasn't clear if there was a system and we had to wait 1 1/2 hours to get our car. Now that's bad enough for us young (no comments) fit healthy people but there were many older and not so fit people also hanging around for that length of time. A shambles so my advice is NEVER hire a car from those people especially from Miami airport.
We headed South on US 1 a road with more traffic lights than cars and after a couple of agonising hours left the conurbation of Miami & Florida City. Now I never thought I'd say this but I'm so glad we weren't on the bikes, scorching temperatures and stop go driving for 2 hours, biking hell.
We stayed half way along the Keys at Marathon, the keys is in fact a collection of islands linked by a massive amount of bridges and causeways which extend the South of Florida for 100 miles, impressive engineering but I wouldn't bother going there, I can show you pictures and save you the time.
Saturday we headed for the Everglades National park, the wetlands and home to around one million alligators. This is a very impressive eco system with much to see for anybody interested in Nature. Great once again to see animals in the wild rather than being treated badly in theme parks. So one thing I'd recommend in Florida is this park, the rest I wouldn't bother but then again that's me and I am biased towards interesting motorcycling roads and nature.
A day on Sunday spent taking an airboat ride in the everglades was interesting, I'd have liked to have driven one as it seemed great fun but would rather practice outwith the Alligator infested area first.
Hopefully not sounding too grumpy here, we are enjoying the weather and hanging it out for a bit yet before deciding on our re entry to society!.
Key Largo
7 mile bridge just past Marathon. Many car chase sequences are filmed here
Long Long bridge although not as impressive as the 17 mile long one further North
See you later Alligator
Fi enticing the Gator with lunch, there is a small fence to protect the stupid humans but the gator just has to go 50 metres along to get round it
I thought they looked like almost human hands, needs its nails cut though
The water is teeming with fish
Which means this guy stays well fed
Sunbathing, amazing to see so many of these all over the place
Moving for another feed
Look at the teeth, scary!!
This one was swimming away from us thankfully
Typical scene in the Everglades
Fellow tourists in a similar airboat to ours
The Captain was feeding the birds, pretty sure they feed the gators as well
Mair fish
This one is called Blackie seemingly and thats his missus you can see just behind him

Friday 1 November 2013

The Bahamas

We left our hotel and headed with another grumpy taxi driver to the port of Miami, not sure why but all the drivers we've had have been incredibly rude and grumpy one was falling asleep and the rest spent most of the trip talking on their mobile phones! We arrived at our ship to be greeted by the baggage handler who promptly asked for a tip, now to be honest I’m getting really fed up of the tip system here, just do your job man and the employers should pay a working wage and not expect the public to ensure the well being of their employees.
The queue and treatment getting on the ship was much the same as an airport much to my surprise and dismay. One of our two bottles of water were confiscated as the seal was broken, I now need to do some research on the dangers of opened bottles of water, obviously not enough to drown somebody or even enough to assault somebody in need of a good wash so these guys must know some sinister side to water. Now we all know its about the cruise companies ripping you off so why can't they just be honest about it.
On board I was impressed with the cabin, not so impressed at having to live with another 2000 people in close proximity, Christ get me back on my bike and get my tent back! The first surprise was the bar, expensive yes but also every transaction has 15% auto gratuity added, now i was really pissed off especially as the bar staff although pleasant are not efficient, matter of fact I found the whole experience to be like that, queuing for restaurant which is half empty, several waiters hanging around being ever so pleasant but taking an age to get your drink and food order and then the food (which is excellent) seems to take an age also. Judy at the Applecross Inn would have a fit!
We decided to go for the all inclusive drinks package being Scottish and partly alcoholic (which had a 15% gratuity added to the advertised price grrr), then we found out at the end of a very messy evening which culminated in us dancing to rave music in the nightclub that when we asked for a bottle of water to take to our room that wasn't included in the drinks package. The other treat in the drinks package is that you have to wear a red wristband which marks you out as an alcoholic to your fellow passengers, of course its also easy to spot your like minded friends so thats a plus side.
I also have to say that there are some very talented artistes also which along with the whisky numbs the physiological pain. An interesting but very different week for us then, enjoyed the chill out and sunshine but cruising isn't for me, I can see the appeal but the crazy gratuity system annoys me, we also get charged $12 each a day for gratuities as well. Gratuities given for good service I understand, this system is simply a tax and I hate it. Moaning over, I'm sure if you like mixing with 2000 people in a confined space being fed meals non stop then I can understand the appeal. We just spent the last year with only ourselves to talk sometimes meeting interesting like minded people, my thoughts on the road ahead, the never ending road of tarmac, concrete or gravel, I'm going to be glad to get back to that but not this. I did say to Fiona I was going to tie myself to my bike with an extending dog lead when I get back because I never want to be that far from my bike again! Still not ready to come home so some more exploring in a hire car first, watch this space!
Our Hotel in Miami, noisy but nice
Our room on the ship, bigger than the usual cabins we get on ferries!
A bit posher than DFDS
We are sailing, we are sailing, home again (not) , across the sea 
Its Party time, but not for us, we dissaprove of this behaviour
Norwegian Cruise lines private island
Our boat!
Another passport stamp
Street scene
British Colonial scene
I thought this was hillarious, imagine being charged with "loafing"
White pith helmet in keeping with Colonial rules
Another Church for my sisters collection
The Hilton, well posh
The Lucy pink Dolphin enjoying its stay in the Bahamas 
Fi Swimming with the fishes
Us paddling with the fishes
Parking lot for cruise boats
Dinner on the poop deck, actually the spew deck as I saw guys cleaning it up the next morning and no it wisnae me!