20 April 2009


One of our many visits to Chinon "a moto"

We have been members of 3 motorcycle clubs. When I met Nick he was a member of "Howling Wolf MCC", a small local club with 20 or so members. They were a rum lot on the whole but we made a few good friends and had a lot of fun with them.

When I got my lovely turquoise Harley it came with a free year's HOG membership and an opportunity to join the local chapter. HOG = Harley Owners Group, the largest motorcycle club in the world with chapters in virtually every country and origins in the USA. I didn't feel quite ready for that yet, partly as Nick didn't have a Harley himself.

A friend suggested we join the HRCGB = Harley Riders Club of Great Britain instead. I was able to join but Nick had to be an associate member, as Grin was technically not a Harley but a custom bike. We were members for 2 years and the highlight was the UK rally at Shipley in Yorkshire. The ride out on the Sunday was amazing, with nearly 500 bikes in the line. There were spectators along most of the route, cheering and waving. I suppose that it's not every day of the year that the man in the street gets to see 500 beautiful, shiny, noisy American motorcycles go past his house. When we arrived at Harewood House people were ten deep around the arena, waiting for us to arrive and line up in what was a truly magnificent display.

Having got the taste for belonging to a club with a large membership and lots always going on, once Nick had his Dyna we decided to go the whole hog (forgive the pun) and join the Nottingham club, Sherwood Chapter HOG. This is one of the best things we have ever done in our lives. The club has 200 or so members at any time and there are a huge number of local, national and european activities going on every year. We were immediately welcomed and have been members since 2003. Each autumn, once the club's annual rally is over, talk always turns to next year's European rally and we decided to push the boat out, break with our usual holiday format and go with the club to Portugal in 2004. This was going to be the holiday of a lifetime, very expensive for us compared with our usual trips and we were very excited about it.

One of the many Sherwood events

2004 turned out to be a year of incredible highs and also terrible lows. The Portugal trip was at the end of May and Nick was disappointed that it was looking unlikely that Grin would be up to the trip. He had spent a fortune on ongoing repairs and modifications but each time he solved one problem another reared its ugly head. In February the headstock was broken and needed lots of work plus some repairs to the paint job - and the painter had gone to ground for months, it seemed. He also had concerns about his Dyna so we decided to do what we probably should have done years before, which is simply to walk into Robin Hood Harley Davidson and just buy a Harley "off the shelf". This we did on 14th February and whilst Nick was spending forever choosing bits and pieces for his new Harley, I wandered over to the new Custom Sportser that was on display and said to the salesman "what are these new ones like, then?" The deal was struck and on that day we ordered 2 Harleys, different models but both in red. We were so excited - a trip to Portugal on brand new bikes - a Valentine's Day to remember and an unbelievable high point.

My new 1200 custom sportster

Many people believe motorcycling is inherantly dangerous but I have always thought that there are things you can do to make sure you stay safe. Not loading the odds against yourself by riding like an idiot for starters. However, I always felt that somewhere out there, for each one of us, there is a guided missile with our name on it, in the form of some dozy car driver.

On 04.04.04 we met.

We were out on our brand new Harleys, running them in carefully. Mine had 120 miles on the clock. As we passed a t-junction, Nick in front, a scumbag in an old Rover saw him go by and then pulled out. I had enough time to think "this is going to hurt" but no time at all to get out of his way. The car hit the front wheel and the bike went down with me underneath it. The car driver tried to drive away but his path was blocked by Nick's bike. He was then reluctant to get out of his car, which is just as well, for as soon as I was back on my feet, I just wanted to kill him. I reached in and grabbed his car keys and handed them to the very large passing motorist who had stopped to help Nick get the bike off me. This man had LOVE tattooed on one hand and HATE on the other and had seen the crash. He was exactly the sort of person you need in a crisis and said "don't worry love, if he tries to run off I'll deck him for you". Scumbag had no tax, insurance or MOT, was of no fixed abode and was driving whilst disqualified. As far as I was concerned he didn't deserve to breathe the same air as me. The police carted him off and I was left with some horrible bumps and bruises, a completely destroyed bike and nothing to ride on our holiday of a lifetime in only 7 weeks' time.

That was a really low point in the year.

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