Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chiefs, Braves and Squaws return from the plains and head home to Tee Pees

Well Readers, this is the final blog from this Blogger and from the Tribe. We are all safely at home after riding over 3000 miles and enjoying the odyssey of a lifetime.
We left our final hotel The Quality Inn – Slough on Sunday morning on the 8.30am shuttle to Heathrow to catch our BA7318 flight home. We waved a sad but satisfied farewell to Frank H, Ron and Sharon and Peter who were spending a few extra days in the big smoke. Dougal, Daniel, Chris, Phil P and Heath had left us earlier in the tour as well as Steve and Dave going back to Ol’ Sydney Town just before we went onto our continental hunt. Mick and Sue had got up at sparrows’ on Sunday morning, caught the 4.30am!!!!!!!!!!shuttleto catch their early flight and had headed off to the States (US that is) for a few days.
Check in and final Duty Free shopping and on to the flight via Hong Kong and then landing in windy, rainy but wonderful Melbourne and HOME.
As promised, here is the final verse of Dorothy’s Ode to the Tour sung in full voice by all at our final dinner on Saturday night.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed our fun, fun, fun vacation. See you on the road as soon as our bikes get back.

Sung to the tune of “Running Bear”

On the plains and heath of England
Back on common ground.
Sailing past Captain Cook’s Home
Many Castles Bound,

Super Man had a Boob Job
Man Keeny had a Wax!
Ladettes dressed up in costume
Showing off their Cracks!


Crazy Horse and Whiskey Woman
Were dancin’ with a Pole
As the Tribe watched the antics
From the avalon Watering Hole!

In a Heart Beat the Chiefs were moving
Through the Roman Walls of York
Another Pint, Another Carvery
Lots of Gravy, But Little Pork!


Off in Belgium at the seaside
Riding on the right
In a Bunker with the Flemish
A sad and lonely site.

Many Warriors from Down Under
Had fought here and had died
When remembered at Last Post
All the Pony Soldiers Cried!


On To Bruge with it’s Canals
And its Chocolates and its Lace.
The Biker’s Loft without Elvis
Was not a friendly place.

Broken Rib Squaw threw her hip out
And Roaring Tent got lost.
The Whompum and the Firewater
Were at a very heavy Cost!


No more Brettland, no more Scotland
No more Ireland to see,
The Tribe had rode together
From sea to shining sea!

Chiefs and Braves and their Squaws
Blood Brothers and Sisters had become.
Aussie Indians from now on,


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Indians return triumphant - the tour winds up - 8&9 August

We made the Eurotunnel passage on the 12.50pm train again the usual dramas with the bookings - this time with little assistance from the French and an outlay of several hundred Euros to get a bike and a van on the train. Jim, Peter and Mason missed the train but caught the next shuttle 15 minutes later. After fuelling and eating a sandwich we all headed off up the motorway to get caught in one of the London rush hour traffic jams. After nearly having a meltdown on our bikes from sitting in the stationary traffic we decided to lane split and finally made it safely "home" where we started from 4 weeks ago, to our initial lodgings at the Quality Hotel Slough at about 4.30pm. Brett has since had his advance/retard ziptied by Peter B who accused him of excessive use of his wrist on the freeway!
Mason and Peter had stopped at the shop and got some "Gunk" remover (aka degreaser) and so a bikewash was set up in the carpark - you know how it is - have a beer, wash a bike, have a beer etc.
Saturday started at 8.30am leaving the hotel for the final ride to the freight company in Feltham to crate the bikes. Everyone pitched in and the job was completed by 12.45pm. Many used the afternoon to chill out, have a nana nap (Neville!) or finish their sight seeing. Sharon and Peter were off to Windsor Castle and Annie, Stella and Dorothy took in a WestEnd musical matinee - Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The Birthisel Clan found themselves 130 Euros lighter at LegoLand. Today's Blogger spent the day on the computer and used up all her internet download time constructing this blog so had to buy more Mbs.
Dinner this evening was at the local Toby Carvery - where we all enjoyed a final meal together, had some awards presented, Dorothy sang us the final stanzas of the now eagerly expected Tour Song and Peter B gave his Presidential Speech thus rounding off a fantastic day, week, and month of being together riding our Indians.
Brett received the final Princess Award for YET ANOTHER ride down the road with his stand down as well as sitting in the far right hand side of the lane down the freeway and nearly having his block knocked off when a bus passed him.
A big thank you to the Organizing Committee who committed themselves wholeheartedly and happily to the planning and organising of the tour for well over 2 years:
Jim Parker – had the idea, got the ball rolling and worked like the blazes to make it happen.
Toni Birthisel – held the purse strings tight and whipped the other committee members into shape regularly.
Peter Birthisel – worked tirelessly to ensure every stage of the tour from the inception of the idea to the riding was trouble free and enjoyed by all.
Conor Murphy – planned and organized a fantastic leg of the tour in Ireland and maintained a clear sense of direction in all that we did.

John Wright - for organising the UK end of the tour and spending hours on his computer and phone developing the longest, most detailed spreadsheets in the world
And most important:
The Tour Members – our Indian Tribe – safely riding their indians and driving the iconic backup vehicles the 2500+ miles harmoniously and at all times maintaining that sense of FUN, FUN, FUN.

Indians muster on the Western Front

Arriving in Belgium Tuesday morning 4 August to a HOT day, we were met by Claude (who was with us at the Highland Rally) and is the President of the Belgian Indian Club who took us, carefully, on a ride along the coast to The open-air museum Atlantic Wall. This museum consists of more than 60 bunkers and trenches and looks exactly like it did 60 years ago. We spent over an hour walking through the bunkers and trenches and then had a meal at a local restaurant before our final ride to the Groenendijk Motorcycle Loft Hotel where we arrived mid afternoon. This hotel is only for bikers and has been purpose built to accomodate the needs of those riding around Europe.Girls went to the beach and boys went to Claude and Rolly's house to talk bikes and see Claude's workshop.

Meals were "cook yourself" prepackaged food and Mason and Hannah were in heaven as they microwaved and fried their duchess potatoes, hotdogs and chicken nuggets. Adults ate curry and veal ragout and found the food to be OK to eat for one night. Drinks on the other hand reminded us of our stay in Ireland and many tourers found the drinks bill at the end of each night to be more than the savings of an entire small european monarchy! I hear that Peter is taking on a second job when he gets home to Bundalong to pay for Toni's "I'll shout the bar" drinks bill!! The entertainment tonight was an Elvis impersonator (no Lyndel, it wasn't Elvis - just a little helper) and in Sloth's words - "he is so awful he is great". Sue and Mick showed how to really jive and others just jumped around alot. Gerrard has given up his profession of "sleep therapist" and has opened up pole dancing school. Lyndel strained her neck by "burying her face in a gay man's abdomen". Yes readers, Elvis liked Jim! We had a blast and thank Claude and Rolly for welcoming us to their country by showing us how it is really done in the land of cakes and chocky.
Our trip to Belgium was planned so we could visit the Western Front Battlefields and the many First World War sites of interest. Claude and Rolly, who you met in photos of our friends that travelled with us, had organised with Frankie (you met him too - on the BMW) to drive a big bus with us in it - so we could visit the sites in the luxury of a coach and have a bit of a rest too.
Our first stop was the "Trenches of Death" on the river Ijzer. A very sobering tour and of great interest to all - well preserved as the information brochure said "so the younger generation can learn and live in peace". Our next stop was in Leper or Ypres where we were introduced to Marcelle who became our tour guide for the day. He talked about the war in the area and told us the history of the memorial built by the Belgian's to those fallen.
Next stop - lunch. Peter B has been banned from playing on childrens' play equipment as he blew a tyre on the go-carts that the kids were riding! After this we went to the Ypres' War Museum, now housed in a fabulous building that once was a weaving factory. We saw the "On Flanders Field" exhibition and experienced the interactive displays.

Finally we drove to Polygon Wood to the memorial to the 5th Australian Division (Buttes Cemetery) and then onto Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial.
Arriving back at the Loft around 7pm discussions were had as to what to do for dinner. Some went into Oostende for a meal at a restaurant on the boardwalk. 13 members of the tour walked to local restaurants to "beg" for a meal. I do mean beg Readers, as by 9pm Belgium has finished serving dinner and most places shut shop. One lady shooed the hungry patrons out the door saying "13 people Nooooooo". So finally after Frank S told the nice lady at the restarant they did dine at that she was "their last hope" they ate. Unfortunately the mussels did not agree with Sharon and the poor love was ill the next day - full awards go to her for her stamina and active participation in the next day's event - including a full vomit out the door of the moving "Mafia Staff Car" with Annie driving.
But I digress...
Next day (hottest day in Belgium for 10 years!) we rode into Brugges and were given a tour by yet another Indian enthusiast - Paul the dentist. We had a horse-drawn tour of the town, a lovely lunch, a boat ride on the canal and then a little time to sample the delicacy of Belgium - CHOCOLATE!
At 4pm we left Brugges and rode to Ypres to attend the Last Post ceremony that is performed at the Menin Gate every night at 8pm. A moving and again, sobering experience. Before this we stopped at Zonnebeke - near Buttes Cemetery - at a small hotel and had an early dinner. Riding home the weather was cooler and a stop at an automated fuel station saw us top up enough to make the 60 mile distance. An earlier night for many with an early start planned for the next morning to enable us to catch the Eurotunnel train back to England.

Wagons roll into Belgium - our peregrinations on the other side of the road

Monday August 3 saw us up early and into York for a quick explore and then on the road about 2ish (still in the swing time-wise from Ireland!) leaving the Holiday Inn Express in York-East to ride to the P&O ferry at Kingston upon Hull - 45 miles approx. for a 4pm boarding.
We journeyed to York on the bikes, parking them near "the castle" - one of the many ancient buildings in this beautiful walled city. Some of us explored in foot and others took the "York City Explorer" bus. We all assembled back at the hotel at 2pm for the ride - after nearly losing 3 riders off to Scarborough due to some massive road works and lack of "paying attention" Lyndel, Gerrard and Mick! Thanks to Dorothy who saw the scout rider through the stationary traffic and ran to her aide and turned her around! Our route took us through some more breathtaking scenery and yet another opportunity to sample local brews - late lunch/ snack was had at The Altisidora Inn.
We arrived at the docks and Jim and John went through now what was the normal mess-up with the bookings with the booking clerk. Finally onto the ferry "Pride of York" for our overnight crossing. Cruise information states "you can freshen up in your en-suite cabin and relax in the bar whilst your cruiseferry departs overnight - sample the onboard entertainment before a good night's sleep."
Points of interest:
1. We did not think the ferry was even going to get out of the harbour as it had to travel via a small lock that allowed no more that 12" either side of the massive vessel. All agreed the Captain had passed his vehicle manouver test with an A when he went for his licence!

2. En-suite cabins meant that there was a teeny little shower and toilet arrangement and when sharing a 4 berth cabin this became a tight squeeze. Air-conditioning in the cabin was minimal so Sloth slept on the couches at the stern of the ferry. A good night's sleep for anyone was at a premium.
3. Peter VS was seasick again and poor fella lost the next 2 days of enjoyment as he struggled to get over another oversea journey.
4. On board entertainment was "make your own fun" so that is what Dorothy did and 4 bottles of red later she was really having fun, fun, fun. Note: she shared a little with others - not much from the feel of her head next day.

We arrived at Zeebrugge - Belgium - at about 9am on Tuesday and so started the Continental and final leg of this fabulous journey.

The Whitley Bay Experience - or "Smoke Signals from Northern England"

As mentioned in our last post Readers we have travelled through Northern England to the town of Whitley Bay. We are devoting an entire post to this "experience" as in Dorothy's own words "we would never chosen to have stayed in a place like that - I would have made Phillip reverse out the drive and keep on going...." but we are very glad we did!
Our rally information states "Whitley Bay is famous for its wild nights out, with visitors from all over England coming for a big party night out". Yes readers, this is Bucks' and Hens' favourite party spot and do they party!

Not to be outdone, the Indian Invaders put effort into their partying and as you can see fitted right in. The Avalon Bar and Hotel where we stayed is in the main party street of Whitley Bay, South Parade. We Aussies think these poms are strange.... the girls and boys come out to play at about 5pm - staggering along the streets in their party attire (which they have put considerable time and money into preparing - and what results!!!!!!!!! We have never seen such expanses of wobbling flesh, cleavage or heels so high). They chant and yell for about 6 or 7 hours and by midnight they have finished throwing up in the street or canoodling down a side street and literally, the place grinds to a halt by midnight. Weird. The bars are empty by 1am except for a couple of live music venues and then the curfew is 2am. At times we thought it was safer to stay behind the fence of our accomodation rather than venture onto the street!

Conor and our host

Leaving the Avalon wearing our new black Tshirts

We did do some sight seeing during our 2 night stay in this party paradise. Many of our group took the opportunity to ride to see the plethora of castles in the area - the Harry Potter castle where the Quidditch matches are filmed - Alnwick Castle and several others.
Others chose to swim in the North Sea or just wander around the town.

John also took some of us on a tour of the Life Brigade Watch House at Tynemouth where he is alongstanding volunteer.

We bid farewell to Whitley Bay to traveled south through Whitby (where the series "Heartbeat" was filmed) and over the moors to York.