I refuse to sell Sasha! And anyways, I wouldn’t get much cash for her now, not as much as she’s worth to me. That’s how I justify it anyways 🙂 So we decided to store her in Aidan’s parents’ shed until we’re back. (And then I can finally restore her properly and maybe even turn her into a cafe racer…. I’ve already got some ideas 🙂 )
So on Friday we set the alarm for 3am, brewed some coffee and woke up Pippa and Sasha. We’d already loaded them up with all the stuff Aidan wanted to store at his parents’ place the night before. A few last things thrown in the panniers and off we went at 4.30am in the dark and pissing rain.
The roads were nicely empty but it was horribly cold and the rain soon crept through our scarves and down our necks. Huge deep puddles in dips in the road surprised us out of the dark. For the first one Aidan spread his legs out for balance and filled his boots to the brim with water! I hit the puddle so fast, I almost went over the handlebars – clutch in, a few gears down then rev hard so the water won’t go up Sasha’s exhaust and stay upright! Once stable, I looked up to see Aidan wobble about trying to shake the water out of his boots. It was miserable and cold 😦
We soon got the hang of how to deal with the drowned roads and started willing the sun to hurry up and rise. At dawn we stopped for petrol and warmed ourselves on cups of coffee in the corner of the shop. Aidan used the hand dryer in the bathroom to try and dry his boots a bit (to little avail). The shop assistant wished us a good trip and waved good-bye 🙂
Luckily it stopped raining soon and the sun came out but we were still freezing cold in our soaked clothes. So we pressed on repeating “we can do it!” into our helmets over and over. People say you should think of a warm place, but that just made me feel even colder.
Biltong Break 🙂
When we reached the Brecon Beacons in Wales, the A40 became all nice and twisty and we were treated to some beautiful scenery 🙂 Some of the mountains had little snow caps on and the houses were painted happy pastel colours here and there.
We didn’t stop to take pretty pictures, worried that we wouldn’t make the ferry if something went wrong with the bikes. A justified worry too, as both bikes were leaking oil! That Sasha was leaking we all know by now (although it was more than initially anticipated). But Pippa is leaking too (a lot)! During the recent oil change the oil filter cover bolt that’s also a earthing pin, sheared off. We tried the drilling a hole and getting it out with a screw extractor thingy, but it didn’t work. Lots of broken drill bits later, there still isn’t a hole big enough to fit the extractor. So we’ve had to set off as it was. The oil was leaking at an alarming rate (about half a litre per 100 miles!) and we were almost out.
The next petrol station sold us some more (they even had 20w50 for Sasha! 🙂 ) (with more good luck wishes in a thick Welsh accent)
and then we got to the port in Fishguard. We hadn’t had a chance to print the tickets, but all they needed was my name and the bike registration. Sweet 🙂 A 20 minute wait with some free Wi-Fi later we were rushing back to the bikes to start boarding.
Waiting to board the ferry…
Pippa and Sasha strapped in below deck, we spread our stuff out for drying in the on board restaurant. Just as we settled in, the place was overrun by noisy, obnoxious Welsh teenagers heading over to Ireland to watch the rugby 😦 We bought some crappy but hot soup and tried our best to ignore the brats. Played cards to pass the time but soon I got sleepy and curled up while Aidan read his book. Apparently I missed out on the most annoying of the teenagers defending his title as dumbest guy there by ripping off his shirt, throwing chairs around and yelling rugby chants at the top of his voice!
My snooze over, we had another coffee to try and wake up. When we got down to the bikes we found them triple strapped down. They were obviously expecting a bad storm! As we got off the ferry, it was lashing down with rain and quite stormy. So this is what a code yellow severe weather warning feels like. It wasn’t so bad for me as Sasha is a real heavy iron horse. But Aidan was suffering! Not only does Pippa have a high centre of gravity and lots of stuff loaded onto her, but Aidan also had his guitar strapped to his back! He may as well have attached a sail.
Another petrol station had some more oil for Pippa, and more sincere good luck wishes, this time in a heavy Irish accent, when the nice attendant found out we still had to cross all the way to the west to county Kerry.
The rain hit us hard but mostly head on, so not too many cross winds to deal with. At the river Suir toll bridge near Waterford I stalled Sasha and jumped off to pay the lady in the booth. There was a lake at the bottom of my jacket pocket from which I fished the two euro coins. The booth lady opened her window for a split second to retrieve the money and offer a quick pitying but encouraging smile.
Then we just rode on. The rain sometimes stopped to give way for clear (and cold!!!!) moonlit skies, only to start again as soon as I’d wiped my visor clean. I have no idea how Aidan had the energy to find the way. I just followed his red tail light in the dark, bumping through potholes and leaning round bends I couldn’t even see.
I was literally frozen solid with my shivering muscles clenched up so tight, I was in agony. The deal was we’d stop every time I was falling behind, so I could hop off, run on the spot and do a crazy-dance to try and thaw out enough to be able to operate the front brake and clutch again (much to the amusement of some pub goers that had popped outside for a ciggy).
Eventually there was a sign for Castleisland and I had hope again. Shame, those were really nice little winding country roads but I was too frozen to enjoy them. When we reached the driveway Sasha and I skidded along in the mud, me too frozen stiff to do anything about it. Upon arrival Aidan’s dad had to help me untie my bag cos my hands were too cold.
It was a very warm welcome with lots of hugs, a fire burning and a glass of wine after we’d peeled ourselves out of the soaked leathers and put on some cosy, DRY clothes 🙂
The next couple of days were spent mostly enjoying great hospitality with nice wine, food and as much beer as we could want, hanging out with Aidan’s family. The wet boots and leathers were put by the fire but took three days to dry!
Oh yeah, and of course we cleared a spot in the shed where we’d store Sasha. On Sunday it was sunny, so we drained the petrol into a little bottle and put it in Pippa’s tank. Detached the battery and drained the carbs. Then we squeezed her through the door and put her in a cozy little spot in the shed. And I gave her a huge hug and kiss good-bye! Gonna miss her loads 😦 Such a fun little thing to ride!
Pippa gets Sasha’s petrol – its surprisingly clean so no rust in that old tank 🙂
…drained the carbs…
took the battery out
Yes I know, you’re supposed to clean the bike properly and cover it in rust protection stuff or WD40, but that would mean spending more money on her and after as many years as we’ll be gone, Sasha may be all rusted to shreds when we’re back anyways. Ireland is damp, but I’m hoping the shed will do the trick and protect her as much as possible. I emptied the last can of WD40 I had onto the rust spots on the outside of the tank and under the seat for good measure. And when I come back, I’ll make the best of it and restore whatever is left. Really looking forward to that already 🙂
On Monday I coaxed Aidan out of bed with a coffee and he made sum yummie pretzel rolls 🙂
The view from the kitchen window!
Meanwhile Aidan’s dad drove into town to buy some super glue amongst other things. The idea was to drill a little hole into the stuck oil cover bolt, then jam a screw into it with some glue and try to twist it out. We spent a while looking in sheds and toolboxes for suitable drill bits.
Then it dawned on us – well, Aidan really! Why not gently hammer the bolt anticlockwise with a small flat head screw driver so it turns backwards and out. A little bit of patience and some help from some needle-nose pliers and it came out easy 🙂 Triumph! I had brought the new bolt which we had ordered from Motorworks straight away so we fitted it and topped up the oil with what we had left over and some more Aidan’s dad found in the shed.
The shopping-basket-head-light-protector had been slipping down on the ride over, getting stuck on the mud guard and locking the steering and almost causing Aidan to crash on a roundabout! That was easily fixed with a screw through the windshield 🙂
Pippa fit and ready to go we joined the others for lunch. Joan, a friend of Aidan’s family, had come over with a bottle of home-brewed jerusalem artichoke wine. A strange brew but quite nice actually 🙂 A few other home brews came out as well (a typical Irish lunch?!?). There were also some more pretzel rolls, stew, home-made scones with home-made jam, pepper & chilli cheddar and home-made carrot cake 🙂 Yum! I ate till I was about to burst.
A nice little walk up the mountain should solve that problem. It was sunny now too. There are little wells and rivers everywhere and the trees are moss overgrown. In the distance you can see the higher snow-capped mountains.
washing the mud off the borrowed shoes
We also found a sad little white pony. It had a tiny shed in dire need of mucking out with no straw or dry spot to lie on and only a small heap of sodden muddy hay in a tiny courtyard to eat. Poor thing 😦 It dampened my mood a little bit and I wish I could do something, but I can’t. I guess we’ll come across quite a few helpless situations like that on our travels too…
Back at the house dinner was another feast of duck, potatoes, veggies and wine 🙂 The next day we had to get up early. When we crawled out of bed Aidan’s mum was already busy preparing us a yum packed lunch. Big hug good-bye and we were off at the coldest, darkest hour of the morning.
Loading up to leave
The promised snow storm had not set in yet, and at 1℃ the road was ice-free. As we wobbled down the drive way (it’s down hill and Aidan had to get used to lugging heavy little me around pillion since Sasha was staying there), a few snow flakes floated past as if to remind us of the chaos they could cause.
Climbing higher and higher, the sides of the road were dusted with a light snow icing and it started to snow again. And now the snow was staying on the tarmac too. Aaagh! I could have sworn Aidan was going way too fast for snowy slippery roads (he later confirmed he was going specifically slow)! We stopped by the roadside for some yummy jammy scones and coffee as the sky started getting lighter.
Soon we topped another hill to be greeted by sleepy golden rays of sunshine that revealed a beautiful and sodden landscape. We stopped for some more coffee about an hour later and devoured the rest of the scones. A quick hello to the local geese enjoying the flooded valley and we were off.
The next petrol station stop revealed a little leak of something on Pippa. We weren’t sure if it was coolant or not. But as it was tiny, we decided investigate at Rosslare port, as were making good time for the 11.30 check in.
When we got there, the gates were closed. So we headed to the car park to investigate the leak. It had vanished! And there was no oil or coolant missing. That was easy! 🙂 “What’s that?” Aidan pointed at the floor. “Er…. a spacer…?” It looked strangely familiar! Yup…. Shit!!!! It’s the bolt that holds the planner frame, and it links the subframe to the main frame. As architects would say, it’s STRUCTURAL!
not looking good!
OK, what bolt can we spare to replace this one? Another one from the pannier frame. Hm… it’s an allen-key-type bolt and we didn’t bring any allen-keys. A lorry on the ferry might have one? Or wait, there was a builders van towing a caravan into the car park. I went to ask them. “Yes, I think I packed one… always like to help out a lady! Now where is it… sorry a bit covered in oil, let me wipe it for you.” (in an Irish builders accent). It was DRENCHED in some horrible Brown solidifying oily goo! But hey, beggars can’t be choosers and all that… Bolt out, pannier frame tied back up with lots of zip ties.
Now to fit the bolt to the frame. That was a bitch last time when we were fitting the panniers so we got the screw driver out to lever things into the place… only to find the end of the old bolt is stuck firmly in place, so the new one won’t go in. No tools to fix this so more cable ties to the rescue, and a ratchet strap for good measure.
cable tie fix….
… plus an extra ratchet strap
The new bolt back where it belongs and Aidan returned the oily allen-key set to its owner. The guy offered the rest of his tool kit, some bolts, advice and some tea. But sadly none of those would help so Aidan declined.
Back at the check in all the booths empty and the barriers were closed. I slowly started to share Aidan’s concerns at the lack of people wanting to board the imminent ferry! (I had refused so far, as it meant doubting that I was right, and I’m ALWAYS right.)
A quick check of the text message from Stena Line confirmed our fears: the ferry had departed at 9.30am and was arriving in Fishguard at 12.30! Whoopsie!!! The next ferry departs at 9pm and Irish Ferries only leave 15 mins earlier….*growl! grumble!* Oh well, a chance to get Pippa fixed then. A quick phone call to the biker mate by one of the Irish Ferries staff confirmed where to find a workshop that could help.
Back on the bike and off towards Wexford. Just before the roundabout turn right by the three or four cars and go to the sheds behind the house. “Yeah, no worries, I can drill that out for you! Just give me 2 (read 20) minutes.”
The guy meant well, but he went at it like a bull in a china shop! No considering tapping the bolt out with a centre punch (like we had done with the oil filter cover bolt) and no using easy-outs…. he went straight for the drill, and after snapping off most his small drill bits, he went for the bigger ones, twisting and turning (cutting the hole in the frame ever bigger!) untill they snapped off too. More small drill bits followed by more big ones, until the battery ran out. “Back in 15 minutes, just gotta charge the drill…”
So we were left standing there listening to the wind bashing the workshop gate around.
A quick look into the hole in the frame confirmed that the drills had only made a small dent in the bolt. We started to guess how much all of this would cost? It was taking quite some time and if we had to pay for the drill bits too… The sun soon disappeared and it got stormier by the minute. I went to say hi to the pony next door and to the young puppy that was barking away in the garden, wanting to play.
Just as we were starting to wonder what had happened to our mechanics, they turned up again, armed with a slightly charged drill and some centre punches. As expected, hammering the bolt through with a centre punch didn’t work (the bolt SCREWS into a threaded bit welded onto the frame, and there was no way the weld would break off!). So a few more broken drill bits later the mechanic gave up. He fetched some special steel cable ties that were actually security tags and we tied the frames together with those. He promised they wouldn’t budge, no matter what. I then wrapped one of our ratchet straps around it all really tightly for good measure. “She’s the mechanically minded one then, is it?” Hehe, thanks for the compliment 🙂 (In reality my bikes just need fixing more often than Aidan’s.)
The mechanic then sent his mate to fetch his last few steel tags for us and a few plastic cable ties, too, in case we needed to fix things some more by the side of the road. Really nice of them 🙂 All packed up again, Aidan went over to ask if they wanted any money for this. The guy thought hard about it, but then his expression went from calculating the total to a vague smile “Don’t worry about it.” Shame, I guess he realised he hadn’t actually been able to help and I bet he is regretting the tragic death of all those drill bits! But he did try and so it was real nice of him 🙂
From now on we were worried! Would the bodge fix hold the frame in the right place, especially with me on the back? Would it strain the bolt on the other side so much, it would snap too? What consequences would that have? And the brand new, specially set up suspension, would that now have to hold up more than its fair share? There was nothing we could do now. So we gingerly rode to the next pub close to the port to wait for the evening ferry.
Pippa waited patiently outside the pub for us
The pub had a fireplace for us to thaw out at and the kitchen had just opened to serve a hot lunch. Perfect 🙂 They even had WiFi so we killed some time faffing around on the net. A couple of french guys on Honda Transalps and wearing patch covered leather waistcoats turned up for some grub too. They were on some crazy mission to ride all the way back to Paris in two days. They got bored waiting so went for a quick spin to Wexford. Aidan and I had a few pints (Aidan only as few as was allowed, since he was riding of course) listened to Rammstein
and played pool.
Eventually it was time to head back to the port. The Stena Line lady changed our ticket no bother, since we had bought a Flexi ticket (glad we initially paid that extra tenner, saved us about £70 for new tickets). She also told us, that the ferries for the next day were cancelled due to imminent storms, and this one was the last one going for a few days. Soooo glad we hadn’t decided to just book a cosy room somewhere and sail the next day.
waiting for th ferry….
… in lane No Fish!
In fact, Aidan had decided to ride through the night rather than stop at the Travelodge and ride home the next day. I just wanted to sleep! But it was his call, since he had to do all the actual riding. And as he said, riding in the day would be a nightmare too, as it was due to rain all day and temperatures were only going to be three or four degrees warmer. So I didn’t really mind either way.
On the ferry Pippa was strapped in double, as we were in for a stormy crossing. This time there were no noisy rugby fans and the movie we wanted to stream didn’t complete before we lost the WiFi connection. So we just curled up for some sleep. Half an hour before arrival I bought some coffee and a Redbull for Aidan. Then I borrowed the scissors from reception to cut the tips off my second pair of woolly socks to turn them into leg-warmers. (Don’t worry, I have about eight pairs of woolly socks and there is only so many I can take on the RTW trip. For some reason eight supposedly slightly-defective-but-not-defective-at-all pairs were cheaper on Ebay than one supposedly perfect pair.) I bet the reception guy is telling all his colleagues about that weirdo chick with pink hair and rain pants that made her look like she was wearing Pampers, sleep walking into reception and asking to borrow some scissors to cut her socks in half 🙂
As we were rolling off the ferry in a slow que, a customs lady with a little scrap paper listing a few number plates to wave aside, directed us and a couple of cars into a blocked off corrugated iron drive through. Oh great! Just what we needed: Someone to tear open our panniers and spread our stuff all over the floor, when we should be riding across the whole of Wales and all the way to London…. After a while of waiting around, a lady in a hi-viz jacket collected everyone’s passports and disappeared.
A few long minutes later a young guy appeared and handed Aidan and me our passports back. He explained that he’d decided to pull us over since the booking was made in my name but the bike was registered to Aidan: “Didn’t realise he’d be here too. Just wanted to make sure the bike wasnt stolen…. Sorry about the delay! Have a good journey!” Glad to know they check these things. But…??? The booking mentioned both Aidan and me with one motorcycle! Hm….
Anyways, off into the cold and windy night. Luckily it wasn’t raining yet. The guy at the next petrol station confirmed the rain was chasing us from the west, so from now on it was our mission to try and stay ahead of it. I devised all sorts of methods of trying to stay warm without falling off the bike: wriggling my toes, rubbing my thighs or clenching and unclenching my fists really fast. My feet went numb anyways but at least I stayed alive.
In the Brecon Beacons we didn’t take any photos again ( 😦 ) because it was dark. And it was cold! The drizzle of snow reminded us how close behind the downpours were following. The winding roads would have been a joy on a nice summer’s day. But this night Aidan was struggling to get round the bends, unable to see much behind the sleety visor. He just got on with it though, albeit regretting at times that he’d decided to ride through the night. If only we could get out of those damn freezing mountains!
Eventually we did and it was marginally warmer (although that may just have been wishful thinking). We stopped at a couple of petrol stations in the hope of a hot coffee, but they only sold petrol and took money through a hatch in the window. So we drank what was left in the thermos, filled up Pippa just in case, and rode on. It was too cold to go for a pee so we made good headway, riding for long stretches of time. When we did stop, I was frozen so stiff, I really struggled to get off and on the bike, while poor Aidan was fighting to hold it upright. And the rain would catch up with us with a threatening drizzle, every time we slowed down.
Just as it got to the coldest hour just before dawn, we found a petrol station that was open and had a crappy coffee dispenser. I marched up and down the isles hugging my hot chocolate, trying to convince the bemused attendant that I wasn’t mad, but was just trying to warm up, while Aidan sipped his coffee, reading funny birthday cards. Then we set off again, into the misty dawn.
London was sign-posted now and the roads were getting busier. Not long now! Then we ended up on the motorway! I hadn’t seen a sign for the A40 on the last roundabout and neither had Aidan, so now we suddenly found ourselves on the M40 with a broken bike, that could collapse any minute if the other frame bolt gave way! There were cars close in front, on the side and right on our tail. If the cable ties didn’t hold, or something else happened, we’d be smashed under the following cars in seconds! I was shitscared and clenched tight onto Aidan like that would help somehow. And then I needed to pee!
I tapped Aidan on the leg and he looked at me through the mirror. But since we were too fast to talk (the airflow literally rips the words out of your mouth), he just shrugged his shoulders. Then a services sign turned up and I pointed at it. Ok, Aidan got it. But the next exit onto the A40 was sooner and a few hand signals and thumbs up later, we took the exit and were safely back on the slower A40. (No swanky service station toilets for me then, just some mud in the bushes. – In case you’re wondering.)
In the outskirts of London the M40 ends and merges with the A40, so traffic came to an almost stand-still. Welcome back to the rat race! Aidan started weaving through and I willed him to remember the panniers. And the not-so-solid-missing-a-bolt frame! Filtering is scary for pillions!!! But the sky was yellow with the rising sun and the clouds were a pretty pink. So I sat really still and just concentrated on the pretty view until we were home.
Yay we made it! Pippa safe in the garage, we had breakfast (we were both starving!) and then curled up and slept till late 🙂 When we woke up, it was pissing down with rain (Aidan had been right to try and escape it!) and a text message from Aidans’ parents told us the worst storm in centuries had hit southern Ireland and they were without electricity, trees falling over everywhere. Lucky escape for us then! We also text-messaged Dave Wilkins if he would fix Pippa’s bolt. He agreed so Aidan will head over there tomorrow…
They came home with Pippa all fixed and happy 🙂 (Basically drilled through the nut on both sides so any future sheered off bolt can just be pushed through and a new one fitted with a lose nut. Perfect!)