Detour

A little bit delayed but better late than never. Premier Pro was driving me nuts so after upgrading to 12gb ram, it’s driving me slightly less nuts. Nuts slightly less. Either one. For some reason (after doing some minor colour corrections), it took about 1,000 times longer to export this video from Premier Pro than it did pre-corrections. I’ll figure that one out eventually.

I’m still pretty much in the testing phases with these drift cameras, their first big trip will be in a couple of weeks time to the highlands.

The above is the first part of the Easter weekend trip to Cork. We took the road to Cork less traveled by riding down to Carlow, into Wexford and onto Waterford before hitting Cork from the east. A surprise attack on a Friday afternoon to get the weekend off to a flying start. The reason for the detour was to get some otherwise pain in the ass photo rally points in the bag, namely the ones in Wexford near New Ross and the slightly less pain in the ass Waterford point just outside Dungarvan. From Dungarvan it was a straight run (via the perfectly twisty main road) to Cork.

As before, until I pay my $60 a year dues to Vimeo, the above embedded video is in bog standard SD. If you want to view it the way nature intended, go to the video page on Vimeo for some HD lovin’.

Part 2 will be along shortly and will be a much less time lapse affair. Off into the wilds of west Cork & Kerry for that one.

Days 3 & 4; In transit to Dijon

Given the amount of ground we were covering, there were always going to be a couple of ‘down’ days. Days where the aim of the game was to get to the next 2 night stop and get to places where we’d already researched the area. From Maison Laudiere to Dijon is roughly 580km, not an impossible or outlandish distance to do in a day but for the sake of Julie’s sanity and my aging bones (and that it’s been a while since I did big mileage days on a bike), we planned to take an overnight pit stop in Troyes and do the remaining relatively short distance into Dijon the following morning. Troyes is a city that I refuse to pronounce correctly. From what Julie discovered, it seems it’s correctly pronounced much like the number three; i.e. “trois”. No, sorry, I’m going to keep calling it Troyes. As in multiple wooden horses.

Having no route in mind was probably a mistake. All I really wanted to do was avoid most of the motorways (and huge toll charges) on the way. We took mostly back roads thanks to the GPS (which at this stage I became sure was trying to kill us) and tried to find Chateau d’O, alas without success. That’s one we’ll have to add for the next trip over. Sign posts people, put up sign posts. We stopped in Sées briefly to orientate ourselves without much success. Oddly enough, Sées is the seemingly small town that my motorbikes saddle had been manufactured in some months previous. I’d brought it home, even if just for a few short minutes. Failing to find d’O, we put Chartres in as a destination. The objective now was just keep heading east.

We had the opportunity to see a huge vase. Bloody massive. Julie’s boss told her she should go see it. I can’t remember where it was but we passed a roundabout on the way into a town that had what must have been a replica of it in the middle. As far as I was concerned, that was us seeing it. That was further reinforced when we were riding by the place it was housed. Dozens of coaches filled with bored looking French school kids, dragged in to see this thing like we were all dragged in to see similarly ‘awesome’ and ‘educational’ stuff in Ireland. No ta, on we go.

On reaching Chartres, it seems it wasn’t so much a town as a whopping great city. Balls. I don’t much like riding around in unfamiliar cities. Countryside is fine, small towns no problem. I just don’t tend to do too well in big cities that I have no direction bearing or final destination in mind for. We fought our way through the city until Julie spotted a quiet place beside the Ibis hotel for food. Funnily enough, an Irish pub. Predictably enough, it was about as Irish as well, a not very Irish thing. They did however have a great old photo of a group of workers outside the Beamish brewery in Cork though. Lunch consisted of mystery meat we were told was ‘poulet’. I doubt it. If anything, I’d have said it was meatloaf. I didn’t really give it a second though, my past frequent trips to Spain (and not speaking Spanish, therefore unable to decipher menus) has taught me that whatever the locals eat probably won’t kill you. It might make you wish you were dead and give cause to have a freshly refrigerated toilet roll, but you’ll probably survive.

Chartres came and went and Fontainebleu came and went. Well, after a diversion around some road works that brought us through an amazing and unexpected piece of forest. It felt odd riding around within a couple of hours reach of Paris and not venturing up to see the city again. We had already decided that Paris was best left to another trip, one where we can fly in and fly back out without wondering how much stuff we can carry home.

A few wrong turns and some swearing at the GPS later, we arrived in Troyes. Good timing really, the light was just beginning to fade and come night fall, the wrong turns and subsequent swearing at the GPS would have increased a hundred fold. I should have taken the opportunity early on to explain that the maps on my GPS are over three years old at this stage and so are completely befuddled by new roundabouts, changes to junctions and pretty much any modifications to the road system. We got into the hotel, a rather standard cookie cutter Mercure and after some swift peeling off of sticky bike gear, we made our way to the restaurant. We’d only been in France a few days but our proficiency at ordering food and generally communicating in French seemed to be increasing every day. The amount of wild hand gestures and ‘drinky drinky’ motions I was making had decreased to a satisfactory level, thankfully.

Pretty big day in the saddle, a bit over 400km. I don’t know exactly how Julie was doing with it but I was starting to feel the stiffness and general ‘sitting in one position for too long’ feelings. I was also getting tiny pangs of guilt for not using the camera at all today given some of the amazing countryside we were in. But I suppose as I said above, there were always going to be down days. Days where the objective is just to get from A to D via interesting points B and C. Thankfully, the next day’s ride south into Dijon was going to be a shorter one, only about 170km.

We set off early so we’d get to our nights destination at a reasonable time. The chosen spot for this stay was Hotel Le Sauvage and after negotiating the third circle of hell which was the road works that had most of the outer city dug into a state of post apocalyptic bliss, we arrived. The photo says it all. I opened the window in the room to look out on the courtyard and was greeted by what seemed to be half grapevine, half berries. No idea what kind of berries and I wasn’t about to taste one to figure it out. The hotel was reasonably cheap and very well situated; in the red light district.


Or at least that’s what we were told. If it’s true, I guess Dijon doesn’t have a very lucrative or exciting sex trade. We were surrounded by a good variety of restaurants and only a 10 minute meandering walk from what appeared to be the city center. After Julie got some of the ‘spicy bread’ she had told me about (Pain D’epice), we found lunch. Hell, it was so good I would have found it twice more if the kitchen hadn’t been closing.

We wandered the city until dinner time then surveyed menus on our way back to the hotel, recoiling in horror at what some places appeared to be serving. Mice? Really?!? No, not really. Holiday kinda stuff really. Nothing I need burden you with now that you’ve fought your way past that epic monolith of text above.

Dijon really is a beautiful city. The weather was perfect for sitting around in the park watching the world go by, for walking down the narrow streets finding (at least in Julie’s eyes) interesting architecture (I wouldn’t know an art nouveau from the back end of a bus) and for following little metal birds set into the pavement at regular intervals. It’s not my fault, the damn birds appeared to be pointing at something. It seemed a shame that we only had a short time in Dijon and alas, I never even got to try lapin a la moutarde. Neither did I get to try moutarde au lapin. I’m reliably informed (by a postcard) that both are marvelous. Having said that, I think we saw a nice slice of the city and got out before we were hanging around wondering what to do with our time.

In a rare event, postcards that were promised before we left were actually purchased. What’s even more strange is that they were written and had stamps placed upon them. No, I didn’t have anything to do with this process. My usual method for acquiring and distributing postcards is to buy them in the airport/ferry terminal on the way home and hand them to people on my return. Unwritten of course. Julie, as always, was as good as her word and set about documenting the previous few days of our trip in detail to several different people. Yes, even my family.

So another couple of days down and the feeling I had before arriving that I had been on the holiday just to get to our next destination had vanished. I think I left it somewhere near Mont Saint Michel on the evening we returned there (yes, just before the bat incident). We were on our way to the ‘little town of Thann’, at least that’s the description I had read on a website somewhere. The start, or end depending on how you look at it, of the route des cretes. Forget the freebie back roads, this was a 230km blast down the motorway to keep traveling time to a minimum.

From the winds of the Loire valley on our way to Troyes to almost running out of fuel on our way to Dijon, it had been an interesting trip. Julie’s first experience of leaning at a steep angle into the wind while going 80mph and being wildly buffeted about by passing trucks. Who says biking is all relaxation and not thinking you’re possibly going to die at any moment?

As usual, I’ve been beaten to the punch posting about the trip. You can read Julie’s account (and marvel at her far more impressive photos) on her blog post.

Crossing

While taking my time on the way back to the ferry from Derbyshire on a nice sunny morning, I found this place while quite lost. I was looking for a place to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea before hitting Holyhead for the ferry but that’s neither here nor there. For those interested in my sandwich and tea exploits, I did eventually find a shop with marvelously cheap & tasty sandwiches only about 5 mins from this spot. It struck me at the time that this was possibly the spot that Fran took some wonderful photos of the same bridge from recently. Or maybe slightly lower down. I wasn’t energetic enough to get off the bike and walk down the path.

This, of course, is the Menai bridge that links the island of Anglesey to mainland Wales. A much nicer sight than it’s neighbour down the river slightly, the Britannia Bridge. I could recite all kinds of wondrous facts and figures about it, but I guess if you’re bothered about that kind of stuff you’ll go to Google anyway.

Perhaps the most memorable part of my stop here was the look of utter disdain I got from an elderly gentleman as I stopped to take a photo. I’d get suspicious glances all the way through the process of putting the bike on it’s side stand, rummaging around in the top box for my camera, taking a couple of photos, stopping for a minute to appreciate the view (without the camera in front of my eye) and then repacking everything and getting back on the road. Perhaps I misread it? Perhaps seeing me arriving on a panzer, laden down with a holidays worth of dirty clothes and various trinkets was the most exciting thing that’d happened to him in weeks. Maybe months? I suppose I’ll never know.

As I so often tend to do these days, I also tried my hand at a quick panorama. This one is only about 8 or 9 photos, lovingly stitched together by the good people at Adobe and converted to black and white in Lightroom the only way I know how; Flinging sliders every which way until I see something acceptable. Rationalising the creation of these aspect ratio challenged jpegs, I often tell myself that ‘some day I’ll print a load of these and hang them up’. The walls will surely buckle under the weight of prints when I finally do get around to printing even a small percentage of my collection.

I have the greatest of intentions to start processing both Peak District and Yorkshire Dales photographs next weekend. The Peak District lot will be thin on the ground as I spent most of my time there on rocky dirt roads, wondering what the hell I was doing on rocky dirt roads.

The Edge of the Country

Rally

A photo rally point yesterday on the edge of the country in north west Kerry. Somewhere not too far from Ballinskelligs to be precise. (Edit; also as photographed elsewhere, but with a bit more style than I can muster)

After coming back from the UK on Wednesday evening (and having had a very relaxing journey back), I repacked the bike on Thursday and along with Julie headed south to Cork for the second in a row of long weekends.

Getting out of bed on Friday morning to the sights and sounds of “The Royal Wedding” (I’m sure there’s a patent pending in there somewhere) was enough encouragement to eat a quick breakfast and head out on the bike once more. That and I was also getting the universal sign of ‘need coffee’ from Julie so we headed into Cork coffee roasters for a predictably tasty couple of large ones.

From there to Kinsale and thankfully avoided big rugby weekend. Got through the town without a hitch and made our way up to a breezy photo point on the old head. After some grass sitting, some munching of ’emergency chocolate biscuits’ (that is, the chocolate biscuits that live in the top box of the bike so they’re on hand 24/7) it was back to Carrigaline to buy some socks.

As I’d recently discovered that my head fairly closely resembled some kind of budget priced mop, I also took the opportunity to get much of my hair removed. Saturday morning and down to Waterville to do the above photo rally point and meet a friend who was holidaying/chilling out with his daughter in the area. One tasty Chinese takeaway, several well needed beers and a couple of handfuls of crisps later and the next thing I knew, it was Sunday morning.

Back to Cork and I’m now eying up a large kinder easter egg. It will shortly disappear entirely, except of course for the large inner quite indigestible part of it. Back to Dublin and/or normality tomorrow. The lack of tread left on the back tyre of my motorbike is testament to what an amazing double bank holiday I’ve had. Who needs double rainbows when you can have double bank holidays?!?

Quick Exit

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This was Wednesday, my fourth flight of the week.

The week started on Sunday morning with two alarms set for 4 and 4:05am. No snooze. It takes two alarms to wake me up and get me out of bed. Quick shower, no breakfast (that’s what the Aer Lingus lounges are for after all) and into the car for the drive to the airport. Playing dodgems with the taxis for 20 minutes or so before locating a free space in section G (groan) of the long term car park. Anything from A to D is acceptable. E at a push. Anything else is a huge pain in the nuts. Don’t even talk to me about X, Y or Z. You might as well have parked in Meath.

Checked in the suitcase full of tools, power cables, network cables and a couple of pairs of socks and off through security for breakfast. An hour later, sitting on a half full flight to Barcelona. First job of the week. Arrived, taxi to hotel. 11am. Couldn’t check in until 3pm. Pain. Another taxi back into city center and entertained self until 3. Check in, grab tools, CCIB. Drill some holes, few turns of a spanner. Power up, away we go.

Hotel, “yeah, meet you later”. Crashed out on bed. Woke up at 9pm. Maybe won’t see you later. Room service, burnt veal burger, oven chips. Four star hotel? Watching anything on TV that’s in English. Something about American influence in the UK. Checked email, bullshitted on twitter for a while. Sleep.

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A place to hide. Trade shows, I love them. May not be an accurate statement. Emails checked when wifi is found. Don’t get me started on the subject of the email client on my phone. By early afternoon it’s in the mid-20’s. Got out, walked on the beach after lunch. Probably a bad idea. Shop closed up about 6pm, over to the hotel to collect my bag of tools (and some clothes), drink a few beers with colleagues to kill time. Flight isn’t until 10:30pm! Off to the airport, another taxi scenic route. Attained synergy with the Spanish language for about 3 seconds. Two questions asked by the taxi driver (who didn’t speak English) were answered by me (in Spanish). Maybe I’m improving?

Tuesday, a day in the office to catch up with email, phone calls and check on the status of new projects. Tuesday ended, set another two alarms for 4 and 4:05am.

Wednesday, shower, taxi dodgem, airport, check in, security, lounge, breakfast, queue, take seat. Half an hour later I was in Manchester. Killed 30 minutes in the airport with a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Found a taxi and got on the motorway.

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Few hours of meetings, thought I’d have time to get into the city center. Great to be back in Lancashire, haven’t heard the phrase ‘bloody Nora’ said properly in years. Almost hesitant to leave but I know I’ll be back (near) here in two weeks. Back to the airport, check in, get through security while managing to somehow avoid the body scanner and the gate rape. Security guy obviously wasn’t into me. I’ll deal with it.

Manchester airport is designed in such a way that you need to take a snaking route through duty free to get to the departure gates. It’s genius. Reminded me of Ikea but with less tables & chairs. I can see why they did it. Passing the whisky (and whiskey) section, I had to take a look. Special offer eh?

Never one to refuse a good deal, especially when whisky is involved. I’ll admit that my first choices were a Glenmorangie Original and a Nectar D’Or but sadly it wasn’t to be after I discovered that the Nectar wasn’t in the special offer. Balls. A slightly bored looking gentleman convinced me of the qualities of The Balvenie after a wee drameen. That is, a smaller than usual measure of whisky consumed by an Irish person.

I did also get the Glenmorangie Original and after being ushered around the duty free by another member of staff (as by now I can only assume I looked like a confused old man), I made off like a bandit paying only fifty of the Queens English pounds for both. Callooh callay!

Thursday, another day in the office playing catch up (and a little solitaire). I knew what was coming tomorrow, I’d been waiting for it since that Sunday morning getting up at 4am. Having already assumed agreement my manager would be in agreement that one good turn deserves another, I was looking forward to a lazy Friday. The plan would almost certainly turn out to be nothing more complicated than the following. Get up at 10:30am, play a little xbox. Have breakfast. Shower and dressed. Head out on the bike until around 3/4. Come home, laze around drinking beer and pissing about on twitter while enjoying some of the evening sun on the balcony.

Thankfully, the above is exactly what happened. If there’s anything better than having a long weekend, it’s looking forward to it all week!

After putting the new saddle on the bike a few days ago, I haven’t had the chance to get out on it to see if any remaining hint of the numb bum syndrome remains after a certain amount of miles done. The results are coming in and they’re looking good. Almost as good as the Wicklow mountains looked earlier today in fact.

5600519742_1a86b98758_o_dFound some new roads and a hell of a lot of burnt out crap by the side of them. I thought the Wicklow mountains was the place to hide dead bodies, not bring your old fridge freezer and burn it out!?! Never fails to boggle my mind why people would do stuff like that to such a beautiful place. The bike is running beautifully in advance of it’s big service due next weekend. Queue the wallet pain. The joys of BMW ownership I suppose.

As I sat on the bike in Phoenix Park, watching the deer laze around in front of me and eating an emergency Tunnocks chocolate wafer (I was eating it, not the deer. They can feck off), I began to hope that in two weeks time when I’m parked on the side of the road in the Peak District, my feet on the engine guards, eating another emergency chocolate wafer, that the weather is as nice as it is today. On my well timed, perfectly executed day off.

If I could only change one thing, it’d be that my beer supply hadn’t just ran out.

 

Other than that though, not too bad a day.

Half way to Silver

After I bought the bike back in January, I began hearing about an event called “Photo Rally” on a few of the bike forums. The idea behind it is simple, there are 24 locations throughout the island of Ireland and you need to travel to as many as possible to earn a bronze, silver or gold award at the end of the year. It’s not a recent idea either. It began way back in 1975 with a Limerick man.

Looking especially uncomfortable for some reason. No, I don’t much like having my photo taken.

Photographing your steed with all 24 landmarks earns you gold, 18 gets you silver and 12 sorts you out with bronze. The idea behind it is to get out and have some fun on the roads, finding new places and meeting up with likeminded folks. I may only be 9 locations into the challenge, but I’ve managed to pack in all three so far.

It’s great riding out into the countryside to some off the beaten track landmark only to meet a perfect stranger and be able to chat at length about where we’ve both been so far, where’s next and where we don’t think we’re going to get to before the November 17th deadline. My God, the previous sentence almost makes me sound like an approachable, friendly sort. Maybe I can blame that on the photo rally too?

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All but one of my visited rally points have been wonderfully obscure. On the tops of hills, back country roads and some in villages I never knew existed. The Fermanagh/Tyrone point almost lived up to it’s ‘tricky’ status by throwing a short section of off road riding in the way. I can’t imagine too many guys on sports bikes are going to manage or even attempt that one. The photography so far has been quite simple. Although there is an incentive to be creative, I’ve found it quite difficult to do so with the criteria. It’s a simple case of ‘heres the shot, heres my bike in the shot. rally point complete’. Maybe as the summer comes in and the weather heats up a bit I’ll be more inclined to stretch my photo rally creative photography legs.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far and I hope to get as close to photographing all 24 points as possible. There was even talk on a popular UK bike forum about running a similar event in Scotland. As if I needed another excuse to jump on the ferry to the highlands for two weeks!

Tour de Wicklow

5439055794_0533f7d71d_zBuying a bike in January is exquisite torture. Mostly because with the shitty weather, you can’t actually get out and have a proper spin until mid February. It was still a bit too cold to enjoy thoroughly (a fact which I discovered to it’s fullest extent after I removed my helmet at Newcastle beach) and the dark clouds that hung over great portions of the journey appeared as if they might decant a biblical quantity of rain on me at any moment.5438102725_14d0595b1f_z

Wicklow is an amazing spot; It’s my west Cork away from home. Mountains, lakes, valleys and the all important poorly piloted rental cars creeping around as if their tyres are made of finest crystal. So just like west Cork and Kerry in the summer.

I started, quite predictably, by easing my way around the Sally Gap. Moved on down the Vale of Avoca where I found the copper mines after missing the turn initially. The resulting photos from the walk that was held down that way some time back made me instantly regret that I’d missed that outing.

I also quickly discovered a taste for off-road riding, taking a somewhat sketchy route up a road just to see what was at the top. Nothing, but the balls to the wall ride made finding out nothing was up there was entirely worthwhile.

Down through Avoca, onto the Arklow direction via some roads that I’m not entirely sure were for public use. I only say that given the amount of horse trailers and tractors I passed on the route. You know you’ve just gone far enough outside a major city when two vehicles are blocking a narrow road and they grant you the huge favor of allow you to pass. Ditto to the horse trailer driver who’s truck was blocking three quarters of a narrow road and he blocked the remaining quarter by standing in it filling out paperwork. Maybe I’m too patient, I sat there for two or three minutes while he finished, strolled out of the way and waved me on as if to say ‘there you go, you may pass now’. For a moment, I was in Kilgarvan.

For the record, I took a ‘proper’ camera with me but I think I only took about 10 photos with it. When they do eventually get looked at, they’ll appear on the flickr set along with the iphone photos.

Mondello Masters

Mondello Masters
Too much time spent with the truly epic 300mm f2.8L IS. Darragh’s 300 2.8 for that matter. Can’t understand how I didn’t have a link to Darragh’s blog here either. Maybe because I’m truly awful at keeping up with peoples blogs these days? Anyway, wonderful event. I’d forgotten how good it was to photograph bike sport. Last time around it was motocross, a lot slower and a little easier (although a lot more muddy) than the masters. But bloody hell what an event. Major thanks due to John and all the guys at Mondello Park for a fantastic day out. I can only hope this and the previous event (Japfest) is the start of a long and productive relationship with Mondello. Yeesh. Now to spend the next 6 months sorting through the 2700+ photos I took on the day. Expect more. Lots, lots more.

All Weather Rider

All Weather Rider
Mattie Griffin doing his stuff in the pouring rain at Japfest in Mondello park at the start of September. The weather didn’t stop him from putting on an amazing show, performing stunts that other (possibly sane) people wouldn’t attempt on a bone dry road. More from Japfest in the coming days.

Solstice Sojourn

Solstice Sojourn
June 2003. Whilst at a very loose end one day and wanting to clear the head of unpleasant thoughts, I invented the tour which shall forever be known as the “Solstice Sojourn”. Started at home in Carrigaline, west taking in Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Schull, Leap, Sheeps Head, Bantry, Glengarriff and a few other towns that I can’t remember. All in all, took about 9 hours and was held for two years running on the longest day of the year. I NEED to do that again as soon as I get a bike.

Custom & Classic Show

Custom & Classic Show
May 2005. I only really remember this as one of the first times I actively tried to sell my previous bike, a Yamaha Royal Star Venture. Put on by the Freewheelers MC in Waterford, the show was my first opportunity to get up close to and photograph trial bikes. When asked by one of the riders ‘which paper I work for’, I remember having to think fast and come up with something good so I’d be allowed further access to the event. Ahh blagging.