Manx Grand Prix
Here we are, four years down the line, and once again a few Moonshiners head off for the Isle of Man. The grand plan was to take four bikes in a van - this works out a great deal cheaper than each person going by bike alone. Snag number one was the van would only take three bikes, which as luck had it, was the number of folks going. We did intend to have a 'spare' bike - or to be more accurate, one bike for going fast on, and one bike for scenic touring. Ian was planning on using my Drifter ( or B.R.U.B. - Big Red Ugly Bike as it's affectionately known ) I took the little green Guzzi, and Andy was going to take both his 500 Ducati Pantah and his B.S.A. Starfire. Now due to the B.R.U.B. living up to the "Big" part of its name, we found that one bike had to be left behind, and sadly the Starfire drew the sort straw. . . so by Thursday evening we were loaded up and ready to roll. The ferry crossing to the Isle of Man has never been cheap, but it works out a lot cheaper to take three bikes in a van, than to travel over riding three bikes, also, it gives you a useful backup vehicle should anything go wrong. Another good way of getting a fair few quid knocked off the price is to sail during 'unsocial' hours . . . . . and that's how we came to be sitting at Heysham docks at two o'clock in the morning.
The crossing was as smooth as a smooth thing - to the point that two one pound coins, when placed on their edge on the table, didn't so much as roll in any direction. OK - so the Ben-My-Chree may not be as fast as the sea cat, but by around six in the morning we were rolling along on the Isle of Man. Seeing as we couldn't really book into our hotel until after dinner, we made a bee line for Peel, in the vain hope that the small quayside cafe may be open. As you can guess, it wasn't, but we were rewarded with a truly magnificent sunrise. You'll just have to use your imagination here seeing as my camera was still packed away. Having spent a while at Peel we headed back towards Douglas and found somewhere to eat - "The Caff" was the name, and, just like it says, it's a cafe. I did notice cheese chips and gravy on the menu, now that is something I must try later in the week.
Having fed we made our way over to Port Erin and found the Grosvenor Hotel, which was to be our home for the next week.
home for the next few days
The hotel owner was kind enough to let us leave our luggage there until such time as our rooms were ready - so having unloaded the luggage, we then unloaded the bikes. . . . and all this was still before nine in the morning.
Unloading the bikes
Now that the bikes were out, the next thing to do was ride 'em. Andy was riding his 500 Ducati and I opted for the little green Guzzi, whilst Ian decided to go and find a few of his pals who were racing later in the week. Our first stop was the viewpoint overlooking Port St. Mary. I was glad of this particular viewpoint later in the week, as you will find out.
Parked up at the viewpoint
The next port of call was Peel once again, and this time the little cabin was open - so we had a cuppa. More scenic roads followed until we reached Sulby reservoir.
A trip to Murray's Museum followed before heading back to the hotel and officially 'moving in'. I must admit, I was quite taken with the view from my bedroom window.
looking left looking right
Once we were settled in, I set up the mobile video camera on the Guzzi and we set off for Douglas to film a lap of the TT circuit. For some reason, the camera cut out after twelve minutes - but I didn't know this until we had completed one lap. Ah well, never mind, we can try later in the week. This was to become a familiar theme. Feeding was done at the local pub - the "Falcon's Nest". Chicken curry - and most enjoyable it was too.
Breakfast - and some of the blackest black pudding ever seen, even the white bits were black. A few more 'fellow conspirators' , namely Dave and Sue, along with their little 'un, Amy, who just happened to have a birthday today, were also staying in the same hotel, so following a feeding frenzy, we went for a stroll along the beach.
a morning walk
Now there was method to our madness in walking along the beach because there just happened to be a classic bike run starting from Port Erin this very morning.
A very rare Matchless an equally rare Panther a very ugly MZ ( I like ugly bikes )
Once the classic bike run had departed, we went our separate ways again, with myself and Andy making another futile attempt to successfully film a complete lap of the TT circuit. This time the tape ran out, due to a false reading on the 'time elapsed' counter. To make up for this setback, we were treated to a glorious sunset.
Once again we decided to feed at the Falcon's Nest, but it was rammed to the hilt - so that good old fashioned stand by, the chip shop, was called into play. Time for a little forward planning - and a table was booked for tomorrow evening's feeding at seven thirty.
Now Sunday is the traditional classic bike meet at Castletown - so without further ado, here's some pictures of classic bikes.
The rest of the day was spent touring the island, with a trip down to the Calf of Man thrown in for good measure. Shall we say that no successful filmed lap of the course was made AGAIN ? Anyway - we've got a table booked for half past seven, so let's go and eat. Considering the food and service were excellent on Friday night, you would be hard pressed to believe it was the same place tonight. Quite a few of the dishes on the menu were not available, so being ever adventurous I once again opted for the curry. Andy decided on sausage and mash, Ian went for the gammon, Sue joined me in the curry, whilst Dave and Amy went along more traditional lines and had roast beef with the usual trimmings. Almost an hour later, the food arrived. Dave could not physically cut into the roast potato, and when we did finally manage to break open the outer shell, there was virtually nothing left inside. I wonder how long that had been sat for ? The currys arrived next, and they were dried out - now I'm of the opinion that the longer a curry stands, the better it is, but dried out curry is not a pleasant experience. At least my rice was cooked to perfection, which is more than can be said for Sue's - it was over cooked to the point that it crunched when chewed. Back went the rice - twenty minutes later some fresh rice arrived, by which time the curry had gone cold. Back went the curry - twenty minutes later the curry came back after being warmed up, by which time the rice had gone cold. Can you see a pattern forming here ? Out of six meals, only two were really edible, and they weren't a patch on the same thing from two nights previous. Still, that was the only real niggle we had all week, and I certainly ain't going to let it spoil my holiday.
Racing today - so whilst the others went off to find a suitable place to spectate from I loaded up the little green Guzzi and headed North - taking in Blue Point, the Point of Ayre, Ramsey, Laxey, and most of the nooks and crannies around the island's coastline.
Port Erin bay The Guzzi at Point of Ayre Point of Ayre lighthouse
Just to keep me on my toes, the Guzzi snapped a clutch cable on the road to Laxey. Not a problem, thought I, there's a spare one in the bike's toolbox. Well, I was half right. There was a spare front brake cable, which has the same nipples at both ends, but has a good inch and a half extra of inner cable. One 8mm nut and bolt later, and the slack cable was taken up, the new cable fitted and we were back on the road again. Nice, simple engineering, one of the delights of the Guzzi. Tonight's place of feeding was the Indian restaurant in Castletown - and most enjoyable it was too.
Today's plan involved buying an "Island Rover" ticket for the grand sum of £ 10. Now this ticket enables you to travel on any of the islands trams, trains, or buses for the day. First stop was the playground at Port Erin, and the infamous three legged see-saw. That passed five minutes before we boarded the steam train to Douglas. Once off the train we went and found George Formby. One quick trio of Uke playing soon followed.
Next it was all aboard the horse drawn tram for the two mile journey along Douglas promenade where we boarded the "Manx Electric Railway" tram, bound for Laxey. Dinner time - and the long awaited cheese chips and gravy was ordered . . . and duly consumed. "A strange sounding combination, but it works well" was the general consensus.
The "Snaefell Mountain Railway" was next - and we clanged our way some 2036 feet above sea level to the summit of Snaefell. To say it was windy is a gross understatement. Wind you could literally lie back on - and Dave did so.
I rose to the challenge and did some "Extreme Ukulele playing" at the very summit.
Other folks just held on and admired the view.
We descended from Snaefell and made our way back to Douglas - and there, in the bay, was something large and ship shaped that definitely wasn't there earlier. Turned out it was the Saga Rose.
The final leg of the journey, Douglas back to Port Erin was made by bus. Now I had not been on a bus for a good many years, and that trip reminded me why. I can honestly see why folks choose not to use public transport. At least the scenery was far better from the Manx buses, and to be honest, the buses were a lot cleaner than the local ones back home. Once again, the sunset more than made up for the experience of bus travel.
Supper tonight was served, Chinese style, on the seafront.
Once again I did a bit of exploring whilst the others went off to watch the racing. I decided on Niarbyl Bay as my first stop. A most picturesque place - I must have sat just watching the world go by for at least three or four hours. Come to think of it, not much world passes by - I had the place to myself for most of the time.
I then took a steady ride over to the arboretum at St. Johns, and was happily taking photographs when that dreaded message appeared in the viewfinder "Card full " - Right, off to Douglas and get another one then. Following a successful card buying trip I headed back 'up into the hills' for a while - I also happened to notice my speedometer had stopped working. In true big single fashion, the Guzzi had managed to vibrate the lock nut off the end of the cable. Nothing that a few minutes of re-attaching didn't cure. Tonight we were going to try "The Viking" - a pub down at Castletown for dinner. I was rather full seeing as I had fed earlier, but I still managed to put a brave face on things and eat a most delicious steak baguette. This holiday lark is most fattening - but who cares ?
Time to set up the camera and try to film a lap of the TT course. This time Andy was riding the B.R.U.B. So with all systems set, we made the 37 and a bit mile trip around the course - only to find the camera had cut out after 37 minutes. This time I made the mistake of thinking a 90 minute tape would run for 180 minutes on 'long play'. It seems that only a 45 minute tape will accept long play. I dropped another tape in, and we set off the wrong way round the course in order to meet up with the others at Ramsey - for the bike show in Mooragh Park, and the sprint along the seafront. Needless to say, the camera behaved perfectly this time - which just about sums my attempts at capturing a full lap. Let's take a look at what's on offer at Ramsey then.
A BMW single A trail style BSA A10 A Bee ( this one is not a bike )
We admired the bikes - talked a load of bollocks, as you do, then took a leisurely ride over to the A.R.E. collection at Kirk Michael. There were some seriously clean and shiny bikes there - in fact so clean and shiny I didn't want to dirty them by pointing my camera at 'em. From there Andy and myself rode back down to Niarbyl Bay where we watched the sea mist climbing from the sea and sitting on top of the hills. . . . that was to be a bit of a problem later on. For some strange reason, we caught a dose of "Limpet Eye" - probably caught it from all the 'Flat Tankers' that seem to have infested the island.
Having removed our optical limpets we rode back to Glen Maye and took a walk down the glen before hitting the pub for dinner.
The ride back took us up into the hills, where the sea mist had now turned into fog - serious fog. As we descended, the fog turned to rain. Now just as I approached the viewpoint above Port St. Mary, I happened to look over to my left at the mist rolling in from the sea. This was not a wise thing to do. If you are looking at the sea, then you are not looking at the road . . . . . which promptly veered off to the right . . . . . which is more than me and the Guzzi did. I managed to kill most of the speed, and sedately rode down the grass bank and ended up just below the picnic area at the viewpoint. I waved at the others following in the van to let 'em know I was OK. It took me a good five minutes to stop laughing - - - but in all seriousness, it could have ended so differently.
Sadly, today's racing was delayed due to a fatal accident, so we all headed back to Peel for a sea side cuppa and a crab sandwich for those who like seafood. Dave and Amy seemed determined to catch their own sandwich filling.
By early afternoon the racing was well under way - and I continued gadding about in the South end of the island. Just rolling along and stopping to take photographs, well, if nothing else it keeps me out of mischief.
I noticed the clouds getting a little threatening, so I headed back to the hotel. Seems like I made a wise move. The others rolled back later on, and they were a tad moist. We decided to return to the Viking for dinner - and this time I plumped for the chilli con carne, followed by rhubarb crumble and ice cream. Ah well, so much for the diet this week. Having fed, we returned to the Grosvenor for our final night - and were once more treated to a magnificent sunset.
A fine view of Ireland Sun setting in the arch another sunset over Port Erin
I took a last look at the sunset from my window.
Rain was the order of the day. Serious rain. The kind of rain I'm glad we never had during the last seven days. We put full waterproof gear on just to load the van - and we still got damp in places. Now the ferry doesn't leave until eight o'clock tonight, so we have around twelve hours to kill. First stop - ten pin bowling at Douglas
The rain was still coming down as we headed next for Laxey, and something to eat. Having fed, we travelled on towards Ramsey, and would you believe it, the sun started to break through. There was a splendid rainbow over the sea, but we were unable to find anywhere to pull in and photograph it with any success. Our next port of call was Jurby, and the aptly named "Jurby Junk" Andy attempted to set a new land speed record on a micro-scooter.
Jurby Junk & Stella's Books Thrash that micro-scooter
Now according to the local radio, the crossing back to the mainland had been delayed due to bad weather. The sea-cat was delayed by a good five or six hours. This meant a very long wait for Dave, Sue and Amy - we were booked on the 'normal' boat, which was running almost on time. By late afternoon we were sat upon Douglas Head and were scanning the horizon for the Ben-My-Chree. Eventually a small white dot appeared, and this dot got larger and larger, until you could make out the waves breaking against the side of the ship.
The waves were also breaking against the rocks - but they were not breaking with as much force as they were earlier. The sea was calming down very quickly. We drove back down to Douglas and booked in. By this time the ship had docked and was being unloaded. A few minutes later and the sea-cat pulled in too. It seems the weather had calmed enough for the 'cat to catch up on lost time. We left Douglas around three quarters of an hour behind time, and despite Ian's dire forecast of bad crossings, we had a very good sailing. . . good enough to force a nice chicken curry down my neck anyway. We docked at Heysham just after midnight, and following a drive along the M6, we were back home by three in the morning. Not really the best time for unloading bikes and the like - so I headed for bed until later in the day.
There we have it.
Another journey to the Isle of Man all done and dusted.
I must admit, I'd forgotten just how pretty the Island is in places.
The good news is - - - - - - the hotel is provisionally booked for the same time next year.
So until then................watch this space.