On June 16th 2005, following three years of planning and preparation we were finally going to be on our way. Maisy was just over a year old and was fully mobile and beginning to talk, I lay in the garden with her on a gorgeous summer morning with less than an hour before we were due to leave. She pulled the top off a daisy and with a big smile she gave it to me, now for the very first time I had grave doubts about what I was about to do and wanted to hold onto this moment for ever.
The bikes were loaded; Baz had already made two last minute dashes across town and now assured everyone gathered that he was ready. Adam had come along to see his bike off with Baz at the helm; it would be Trabzon in Turkey before he would be reunited with it. We wheeled the bikes out onto the road for a final photo shoot and I gave Jenny and Maisy last minute hugs and kisses, pulled my helmet down over my head and we were off. The first three miles or so were spent choking back the tears and sobs as the huge emotions got the better of me but soon the heat of the day and the unfamiliar handling characteristics of my fully laden bike soon had me focusing on other things.
Herman had also been there to see us off and would ride for a while with us before heading south for Enfield down and then hopefully reappearing a two week’s later in Norway. For once we were having some fantastic summer weather in the UK and today was the hottest yet with temperatures reaching the mid thirties, great for a day out at the seaside but not so good if your £2000 rebuilt engine has a tendency to heat seize, which mine seem to do!
With less than 50 miles covered the engine started to labour, I whipped the clutch in and the engine died instantly, I freewheeled to the kerb. Now then, was I being over cautious? Was it really a heat seize or possibly something else? I let the engine cool for a while and then gingerly kicked it over, it felt normal enough and so maybe I was being a bit over cautious after all, I gave it a good kick and I was back in business. Baz and I waved farewell to Herm as he took the M11 exit. I was taking it very easy but couldn’t help but think back to the previous seize which was put down to me omitting the air filter when reassembling the bike, that was a really cold night and I was barely doing 45mphat the time. These thoughts were very much still on my mind when the oh too familiar feel of the engine struggling happened again, this time I left it a little longer before pulling the clutch and sure enough it nipped up. Again I let it cool and then nursed it into Newark Services, this time there was no doubt, there was a trail of blue smoke following me.
I was not happy, I knew that this was trouble, I also knew that first seize a few weeks before was sod all to do with the air filter. I was on the phone to Dave Lambeth before Baz had pulled up; I got the answering machine, luckily for Dave. I left a comprehensive explanation of what had just happened complete with every expletive I could muster. I then did the most logical thing I could think of and called my Dad for advice and sympathy, he managed to calm me down a little and suggested a healthy dose of RedX in the tank and to continue as best I could, in the mean time we’d try to come up with a contingency plan between us.
By now I was not in the best of moods and was a little anxious that Andy, who was traveling from Stafford, had not made the rendezvous at Newark as planned. We finally made contact with him and found him at a completely different service area; nerves were a bit frayed to say the least and poor old Andy got an earful for the slight inconvenience.
The temperature began to drop the further north we went and then the heavens opened; at least the bike was still running albeit slowly with a smoke trail worthy of the Red Arrows display team.
Luckily we had a planned stop over at Newcastle before catching the ferry for Norway on the 17th from North Shields. Things were looking up as we tucked up in the Travelodge for the night, my bike seemed to be running ok, still smoking but at least it was running. I spoke to Adam back in Ipswich and asked him to be ready to drop the engine out of the Tenere I’d had the sidecar accident on and if necessary dispatch it to me somewhere en route. The overnight stop also gave us time to make some adjustments to the bikes and the luggage; we ditched the litre of saline fluid (2 years out of date) Herman had included for emergencies, not sure what he had in mind, and a few other useless items from Adam’s bike.
Sometime after three in the afternoon we were on board one of P&O’s finest and finally leaving the UK. The ferry was a very pleasant surprise; very bike friendly with plenty of room and straps to secure our machines, the economy cabin we’d booked was air conditioned and very comfortable and the shared facilities spotless. We had dinner and a couple of drinks before hitting the bunks around 11pm, we all slept soundly and were feeling great as we rode onto Norwegian soil shortly before 10am on 18th June.
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