Sunday, 13 July 2014

Looking back on the ride

Ahoy there blogmates,

Welcome back to the Arctic Ride blog. I might have completed my trip to the Arctic Circle but there is plenty more to come from me.

Me and Robbie on launch day
Its been 4 weeks since I arrived home and it has given me plenty of time to digest my adventure. I've written a lot about the charity Cerebra on my blog already over the past months but one of the biggest takeaways from my trip has been the difference the money raised will do for brain injured children and their families across the UK. The effort that I have put into the planning and execution of the trip would be for nothing without the support and donations I received along the way, which I am very thankful for.

Waving bye to friends and family - 6,000 miles to go...
Something else I'll take away from the ride is my ability to actually go and complete such a big project. There were quite a few doubters when I said I was planning my second attempt to Nordkapp, not only that I wouldn't make it to Nordkapp but also that I wouldn't raised my £2,500 target for my trip. Again the support I received along the way keeping me motivated, especially from my wife Kirsty, was instrumental from the success of the trip. I lived and breathed my Arctic Ride for nearly 18 months and I enjoyed almost every second.

 Day 12 - The bike and the Lyngen Alps, Northern Norway
Something that I got from my trip and I'll remember for the rest of my life is the reaffirmed love of riding my motorbike. Even on the bad, cold, wet days... I loved it. I loved the challenge of the gravel roads, of the driving wind against the bike, and of pushing on through on days I wanted to stop. If anything I like riding my bike even more (if that's possible) than I did before the trip.


On one of my days in Northern Norway, I pulled my bike to the side of the road coming to a stop with gravel and dust at my feet. I took off my helmet and felt a cold mountain breeze across my face. As I got off the bike I turned back to see the road I had just ridden. A coating of snow either side of the road, wet from the countless waterfalls that drain form the snowy mountains, and empty twisting beyond the spiky peaks in the distance. I'd battled with the stifling heat of traffic in London, Antwerp, and Hamburg; fought the wind of the 8km Oresund Bridge; and shivered my way through countless tunnels and mountain passes. But I was here, nearly 3,000 miles from home, in biker's paradise, and in the dream I'd been having for the past 4 years.

At Nordkapp

This feeling has confirmed that this certainly won't be my last motorbike challenge (more info in future blogs where I might be heading!).

There was a quote I saw recently which I thought was appropriate:

'All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible' - T.E.Lawrence

To me . My ride may have made only a small difference but it was born out of a desire to do something different. Follow your dreams and live the life you want to live, I assure you that you won't regret it.

Ride safe,

Gordon

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Day 22 - Home

Hi everyone,

So... 22 days, 9 countries, circa 6,000 miles... And I'm home. What a trip. What an adventure!


I awoke early on the ferry, worried about waking up late and missing the entry up the Tyne. I got up and packed up my things. Suddenly it hit me... I was home. After all I'd been through on the trip, this was it. It didn't feel like I'd been away for 3 weeks. I had some lonely and down moments on the trip but thinking it was coming to an end was sad too.


As the ferry approached the breakwater, I went out on deck to see my town from the river and also to try and spot my welcome home party. My wife Kirsty had drummed up support for me coming home to make sure I had a welcome to rival my send off 3 weeks earlier. 


After (just)seeing my party in the distance as the ship rolled up the river, I went down to the car deck to de-strap the bike. This proved a bit premature as it took me around 5 minutes to de-strap the bike and I ended up waiting another 45 minutes to get off the ferry. Tusk. I got the same feeling in my stomach as I'd had 3 weeks ago at the lighthouse, excited but nervous. 


3 weeks might not seem a long time to some, but for me to be away from my pregnant wife WAS a long time to me. Knowing I'd be greeted by my friends, family, and film crew, I was doing my best  to control my emotions and be safe riding the bike.

Then, the ship doors opened and I rode down the ramp, back in blighty, and headed out of passport control. Then I saw my crew and knew I was home!


I rode the bike up full speed, stopped, kick the side stand down, flipped up my helmet and looked for Kirsty. A hug and a kiss the perfect tonic for the 3 weeks of emotion and adventure. I then jumped off the bike to 5 fives and hugs from my friends and family, and it felt great! I was then presented with the best present of all... a can of Irn Bru! :D original and best! 


I then jumped straight into an interview with my film crew from MPH Studios for the Arctic Ride movie. We did this straight away to ensure they captured my true emotions of being home!

I was lucky to get any filming done at all after the Port of Tyne refused to let MPH do the filming, even in none restricted areas. Luckily Jon and Phil are true professionals and took this on their stride and still got the shots needed.. Cheers guys!

After the filming I got on the bike and headed the 10 miles home. Clicking the bike into gear, I knew these were my last miles of my Arctic Ride 2014, so I opened up the throttle and bombed home, remembering to ride of the left hand side of the road (and be safe of course ;) ). 

And I then I was home. I pulled the bike up next to my garage and got off the bike. I think it will take a good few days for it to truly sink in what I've done. Not only the miles and the actual ride, but all the pre-work, blogs, and social media updates. And most important if all, the ever rising total (now above £3,500) for Cerebra.

But this certainly isn't the end of my adventure even though I've ridden the miles. A week on Thursday (26th June) I'm having an after party at the Brewdog Bar in Newcastle 7pm - late - all invited so please come along and join me.

Then I'm going to showcasing the bike and trip at the Bikewise Motorcycle Show in Durham on 20th July. Again pop down to the North East's best bike show.

Of course I've also got the Arctic Ride film. While I've been away the past 3 weeks I've been filming my ride, doing video diaries, and other shots, so that I can share my adventure with you all through the medium of television... More details to follow.

I must finish with a massive massive thanks. Thanks to everyone who has followed my adventure, to those who have kept my spirits up and sent messages of support, to everyoe who has donated to Cerebra, to those who have given their time to give advice and support, to Cerebra for their support and making me an ambassador, to my wife Kirsty for supporting me and my dreams, to all my sponsors, to my new Norwegian friends, to my bike for getting me there and back in one peice, and to my little brother Robbie... The lad who inspired me to do this challenge and who rode every mile with me in my heart. I thank you all!



Until the next blog, and as always, ride safe!

Gordon

Friday, 13 June 2014

Day 21 - The final hurdle

Hi everyone,

So it's Day 21 of my trip and I'm almost home, almost. When I'm back (I've still 10 miles to do once I get off the ship in the UK) over the weekend I'll do a full blog reflecting on the trip. 



Im on my final ferry now, sailing back to the UK, due in tomorrow morning into North Shields. I'm still taking my adventure in. It almost doesn't seem real that I've been on the road for 3 weeks, made it to the Arctic, ridden to Nordkapp, and home again.

But I think it hit my body. I got to my cabin (VIP - provided complementary by DFDS Seaways) and has to sit down. I'm so tired, both mentally and physically. My whole body is sore, my mind strained from the concentration of being on the road for so long. But at the same time I feel on top of the world. 

I've done it... I've bloody done.

Today started as most have on this trip. I awoke to sunshine, got myself up and started packing my tent. It felt odd this was the last time (for while at least) that I would be rolling up my sleeping bag, taking out my tent pegs, and stuffing my life onto the back of my bike.



As I put my leathers on I felt a bit sad. There is a massive part of my soul that is filled with everything motorbikes. I can't walk down the street and hear a bike without looking for it and staring at it. So I took a moment and sat in the warm morning sun. I only lasted about 2 minutes before overheating so I jumped on the bike to get some cool air to my face... The downside if leathers.

I went to the first petrol station I could find and filled up the tank one last time. And boy is Netherlands expensive for fuel... It's worse than Scandinavia! After doing the maths I paid £1.83 a litre... Wow!

In my annoyance I set off and took a wrong turn and started heading North East... WRONG WAY! After turning around I headed towards Amsterdam.

Again the traffic was heavy but the miles disappeared as I thought about home. As I approached the city I pulled over for a spot of lunch where I treated myself to my FIRST McDonalds of the trip. I checked google maps and found I was still 2 hours from the port with traffic so I best get a move on I thought.

Buzzing through the traffic I joined several German bikers who were clearly on the way to the ferry too. When I arrived I checked in, did passport control and parked up.. Suddenly I looked ahead and there was a ton of bikes... It was like a bike meet.


Still having an hour or so to wait or the ferry to load up I had a wonder and loom at the bikes and counted no less than 50 Bikes! I know it's a big ferry but that seemed excessive... Considering there had been just 6 on my last ferry! 


After some waiting in the sun I rode onto the ferry and took my place! As with my first ferry from Dover, I had to strap down the bike myself, and I'm not really an expert on this but I did the best I could. We'll see in the morning if I did a good job or not. Having worked as a deckhand for the afternoon I'm looking forward to my pay-cheque from DFDS later in the month :)

Seen as it's my last night I thought is treat myself to either a burger of pizza... I'm still to decided.

As promised in yesterday's blog, here is what happens to my helmet yesterday. Basically the flip part at the front of it (designed to be flipped up when paying for petrol or during accidents) fell off at one side as I was approaching my campsites. Upon further inspection it seemed a bolt had come loose that hold this in place so I promptly reinserted it and tightened it. I'm not sure how it happened, I've dropped my helmet or anything but maybe it was loose and the constant pulling it on and off had loosed it more... All fixed now.

So that's Day 21. Nearly home and very tired.

Thanks again for reading and look out for the next blog where I sum up the trip and tell you about my final (but short) day tomorrow.

Ride safe.

Gordon

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Day 20 - Gordon vs The Autobahn

Hello there,

It's day 20 of my Arctic Ride and I'm getting closer to home!

Tonight I'm camped in the Netherlands after a long 550 mile day through Denmark, Germany, and Netherlands.



Today started with me waking up on the ferry and worrying about if my bike would still be in one peace on the car deck after some moderately rough seas and some less than inspiring strapping down of my bike by the crew.




When I got down all was fine and I rolled off the ferry into Danish soil.

The first few miles got a bit of getting used to as I'd been used to 80kmph (48mph) speed limits in Norway for past 2 weeks. Like berocca tablet dropped in some water, I was fizzing along the Danish highways at 120kmph (72mph). However I really had to concentrate, get my stopping distance correct and watch out for the extra traffic compared to Norway, and this would be even more so in Germany later in the day.

Before lunch I had disposed of Denmark having ridden the length of the country and passing some of my old navy ports including Aalborg, Arhus, Middlefart, and Sonderborg to name a few. I stopped for lunch in Flensburg, Northern Germany with the aim of reaching Netherlands by close of play.



From here on in it was on the notorious Autobahn... With unlimited speed limits in lots of sections and some of the heaviest traffic in Europe... The joy.

I battled past Hamburg and was eating up the miles! I try not to remind myself of this when I drive in Germany but before today, the 4 times I'd been on the Autobhan I'd seen 5 accidents. My friends Oli and Joe will no doubt remember the first in 2008 when we were on our way back from riding in France when we had I pull over after seeing an awful smash on the opposite carriageway.

Today, unfortunately was no different. Just after Hamburg the traffic slowed to near standstill and after filtering to the front I saw the emergency services doing their thing on the hard shoulder.

Before my trip I did an advanced motorcycle training course with Newcadtle Rider Training and I'm so glad I did. First of all the cornering techniques on country roads proved a godsend when I was up in Norway meaning I could ride with confidence and speed around the twisty bends and stay safe. But one bit of advice from the course stayed with me in particular which could potentially save my bacon... And I think I did today.

On a small part of the course my trainer Neil was telling me about motorway pile ups, and the reason why they happen and some common themes around people who escape unharmed. The majority of people who don't get involved in piles up but are in the middle of them find an escape route, while the rest slam on the brakes and smash into the next car. Neil's words were 'find an out'.

Back to today and the accident I mentioned above reminded me to stay safe and keep good stopping distance etc especially on the unlimited appes limit part of these roads.

The road was packed, three lanes filled with lorries, caravans, cars, and me. I was traveling around 80mph with big stopping distance which I felt was sensible got the road. Faster than the lorries but slower than some of the big German cars, most of which musthave  been doing upwards of 100/120mph.

I was stuck behind a van in the middle lane doing about 60mph, I waited for my moment when the fast lane  cleared and I opened up the bike and started to overtake. At this point I was maybe doing 80-85, to make sure I passed the van in time before another Audi came up behind me with the threat of tail-ending me. As I passed I looked up, and to my horror, I saw a mass of break lights and hazards flashing at me... 

Now I'm not trying to sound like some hero or super biker, and I probably did a few things wrong on the build up, but the next 5 seconds and my training at Newcasyle Rider Training possibly saved me from giving a BMW estate car a Glasgow kiss or something worse.

As soon as I saw the lights ahead I knew what was happening, the sea of traffic was stopping in front of me, and fast. I had two things against me here. 1) motorbikes have a greater stopping distance than cars 2) I was accelerating to pass the van. 

When I saw the lights, the first thing that came to my head was 'find an out' just like Neil said, and I did. In a split second as I started to hit the brakes I saw ahead to my right there was an opening in the traffic and a clear path to the middle and inside lanes, plus the hard shoulder, so I went for it. This allowed me to come to a stop without hitting anything, while a few cars ahead a trailer and a lorry hit each other in the melee. 

My heart was in my mouth... And as the traffic started to move again I was still wondering how I hadn't hit anything, or why there wasn't MORE chaos. In times of old I would have anchored on the brakes and maybe tried to squeeze either side of the car in front so not to hit it, maybe that would have been enough, but there would still have been an Audi behind me ready to shunt me as well.

So yeah, the autobahn is a dangerous place in my opinion and even though I'm away from the freezing mountain passes, hairpin bends, and wild animals of the Arctic, this motorbike riding is still a dangerous thing!

In other news today I spent 90 minutes to find a campsite in The Netherlands, rather ironic considering they are the camping champions in the rest of Europe :)

Also, as I approached the campsite the flip face part of my helmet decided to half fall off! More on that and how I fixed it in tomorrow's blog!

So I'm less than 450 miles from my ferry now and just one more riding day then home. I can't begin to sum up this trip yet but I'll give it a good go in a blog on Saturday or Sunday when I get home.

Ride safe everyone!

Gordon

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Day 19 - Farvel Norge

Hello!

Day 19 eh? The time keeps flying.

So tonight I bid a fond farewell to Norway, the country I have travelled through on my adventure for the past 15 days.

I don't think I've ever visited a country top to bottom before like this but maybe this is one of the reasons why I like it here so much.


Norway has beautiful cities, scenery, wildlife, and people. It's truely been a pleasure to live and breath this country for over 2 weeks on my motorcycle.

The enjoyment and success of my trip has been down in no small part to the great people I have met along the way.


From Hans in Oslo; Lars, Leif, Mona, Svein, Arild, Wenche, & the others at MC in Trondhiem; Halvard, Roy, & Aud in Helgoland; to Geir, Edel, Petter, Anniken, & Tilde in Tromsø plus the MCE club folk... I'm truly thankful for your help, guidance, generosity, and welcoming! Words alone can't thank you all enough. You are all welcome in Newcastle at Stuart HQ ANYTIME... And there is motorbike parking too ;)


My favourite part of Norway? All of it! But being truthful.. The North of Norway was stunning in so many ways. Lofoton Isles, Tromsø, Lyngen Alps, and Nordkapp... an adventure in itself! And I got to drink beer and whiskey with my new friends and ride my motorbike... Need I say more.


Back on to today's ride. I awoke to rain and a sore back! I also had woken up at 4am and started packing up until I realised the time... Oh the woes of a motorcycle adventurer! You can tell I'm getting tired now.

After properly packing the bike I started the 50mile ride to Oslo. The road was still tasty but evermore filling up with traffic (like it is back home). I realised that I had become accustomed to there hardly ever being proper traffic while riding up North so the lifesaver (biker terms for final safety look over the shoulder) was being used often today as the trucks and cars piled onto the road!


I arrived in the city centre about lunch time and found a spot to park the bike near the train station. As I had a few hours to wait for my ferry to Denmark I disembarked the bike as headed off to see the sights. I've been to Oslo before on my last trip when Kirsty flew out to meet me but it was raining that time so I got to see the city in a new light.


I visited the stunning Opera House, the Royal Palace, Nobel Peace Prize centre, and many more sights. I tell you one thing though, when it's 25 degrees and sunny, motorbike leathers don't make the best attire. As I had nowhere safe to leave them, using my camel bak as a base, and myself as a mule, I loaded on my leather jacket and helmet using my helmet strap to secure in place... So now I just had a very heavy backpack but nuch better than cooking like some scones in oven.


Oslo is a great city (very worth a visit too) but like every city it's got it's tourist traps, dodgy folk who ask for money, and free Pepsi max.... Hold on. I think that last one was just Oslo today... But boy did I need it.

After seeing the sights I then headed to port. While waiting I met some other bikers including to Danish chaps riding a Vincent and a BSA (this will mean something to the older biker readers). Very nice.


Then it was on to the ferry and before I knew it we were sailing down the Oslofjord and on to Denmark.

I've now done over 5,000 miles in 19 days with another 1,000 to do by Friday night.

It's been great to spend some time in Oslo after putting extra miles in early this week. I've been lucky enough to get some some of Norway's best cities on this trip in Oslo, Trondheim, and Tromsø.

Until next time Norway...

So tomorrow I have the task of doing a cool 600miles (1,000km) or so down through all of Denmark, a lot of Germany, and hopefully the start of the Netherlands. I have to be at the ferry port at 4pm on Friday to catch my ride back to Newcastle so it's vital I get a big day in tomorrow so I'm not rushing come Friday (as I have Amsterdam rush hour to deal with).

Thanks for reading and tune in again tomorrow.

Kjør forsiktig!

Gordon

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Day 18 - Geirangerfjord and heading South (still)

God dag!

Welcome to day 18 of my trip blog... Riding 6,000miles to the top of Europe for charity.

Today has been another incredible days riding. I awoke in the Weatern Fjords to yet another sunny day. After packing up my tent in what seemed like record time I hit the road bound for Geirangerfjord, one of Norway's most famous sights and a Unesco World Heritage site. And it didn't disappoint!


It's fantastic that such an amazing place was on my route home. The road twisted and turned with more hairpin bends than I have toes!

I found great viewing platform at the top of the fjord and promptly parked up the bike as close to the edge as possible for a good photo opportunity. Just as I did a bus load (literally) of tourists turned and got agitated that I had parked in the middle if the platform. In a rare moment of annoyance, I told them if they had a problem I'd get my passport out and show them the British empire still ruled the world... Or so the look I gave them no doubt said :)


  1. Geirangerfjord and the town were wonderful but the amount of tourists and tour buses on the small mountain roads made manoeuvring the bike hard work, especially in the hot temperature (27 degrees!!!)

    I then carried on South on the road to home. I stopped in the town of Lom for a spot of lunch (hot dog, chocolate, and some Pringles). Petrol stations are by far the cheapest option for lunch in Norway, especially after being quoted £18 for a burger in a local kaffiteria.

    Continuing South I took the 51 road which I had ridden two weeks ago over a stunning and snow topped mountain pass. 


    My aim for the day was to get to Oslo but with roadworks and traffic getting in my way I stopped for the day 50miles North.

    I managed to get my tent set up in time just before the heavens opened.  I can't complain about the weatherI've had which has been truely amazing. I think I might even be getting a sun tan on my face!

    I then made up the culinary delight that was my dinner. 5 day cured pork belly thinly sliced, cheese enfused  with herbs, layered on freshly baked brown rolls with a dash of midges/mosquito.... Ok ok I had cheese and ham sandwiches with cookies for dinner. After a long day the  thought of cooking and eating another pasta and tomato sauce was too much so I went for the simple option. But it was tasty and I washed it down with a bottle is solo (Norway's answer to fanta).

    And that was my day... Other than writing this blog in the toilet block so I can charge my phone of the shaving socket, it's been a pretty solid day... 

    Oh yeah and one of my tent poles snapped which will have to be fixed on tomorrow morning's take down. More to come on that.

    So tomorrow I head for Olso having done just short if 5,000 miles in 18 days. The bike certainly feels that way too and is not at all as fresh as when I pulled away from the lighthouse 2 and a half weeks ago. But with another 1,000 miles still to ride in the next 3 days I need her to be on top form to get me home! The biker also feels that way. I've decided that I need a good English cuppa, a plate of mince and tatties, and some Cadbury chocolate!

    Thanks for reading. Even though I'm on my way home now you can still donate to help support brain injured children and their families. Every penny (and pound) helps and goes straight to Cerebra (you won't be paying for my bottles if solo, haha) so your contributions will be greatly received. www.virginmoneygiving.com/arcticride2014

    Thanks and ride safe!

    Gordon

Monday, 9 June 2014

Day 17 - Devil's road and the Trolls Ladder

Hi everyone,

Day 17 already... Wowza. It's hard to think its a week since I was arriving in the amazing Tromsø on my way to Nordkapp... The time is flying.

Today I awoke to rain, and lots of it. Also, this numpty left his waterproof suit on his bike last night meaning I had to put it on wet this morning.



Luckily I had been staying at Lars' place last night so I wasn't wet. The morning set the tone for the day really, as we went outside to start the bikes up I was stood behind Lars' Kawasaki. Due to the rain some had collected in his exhaust... So when he started the engine I got a cocktail of rain water and exhaust fumes to the face by what felt like a shotgun (it reminded me of Homer Simpson's 'make up gun' for those of you who are fans if that show). Bets on how many of you think Lars did this on purpose.

We rolled out if town getting petrol on the way. As with my previous visit to Trondheim the MC club escorted me through the region. This made riding in the rain a little bit less crap.


Heading West, the frequent tunnels were keeping me dry(ish) and after an hour or so riding in the rain on some ace roads we came to a ferry (what else in Norway).

From there it was on to Kristiansund and out to famous Atlanic road. Just before we stopped in for a buffet lunch where I tried the local delicacy bacalao. This is some sort of special fish dish. Whilst I enjoyed the flavour of suace and the taste of the fish, I'm not really seafood guy but if you are as going to this part of Norway try it!


Then was on the Atlanic Road (voted the worlds beast road by guardian newspaper readers 2009... Or something). The road connects several different small islands with swirling bridges which regular get battered by storms from the Atlantic. Luckily the rain which had been coming down on us was gone so I got plenty Of time to enjoy the road!

From there I travelled through some ace biking roads along lake sides and between sweeping hills. The road was number 666 or 'The devils road', as I was reminded after riding it! It sure was a little devil as the Tarmac was less than pure making cornering on my kit-laden bike more difficult.  

After, I said bye to Lars and the gang, and headed South! My plan was to make it the 200kms or so to Geirengerfjord but after 350km already done it was 4pm.

I pressed on to Åndalsnes via another mountain pass. Here I was at the gateway to the Trollstigen, Norway's most notorious mountain pass... Trollstigen translates to the Trolls Ladder (i think) and there is a myth about the Trolls of Norway living in the mountains that it passes over. I didn't see any there but there could have been lots of they were pretending to be American tourists...

11 hairpin bends, a waterfall raging through the middle. A road not to missed.


I turned on the goPro camera at the bottom and made my way up... Man what a road.. Although I learned that this is not a fast road AT ALL on the first bend which I entered about 40kmph too fast.

When I got to the top I did the touristy taking of photos but I also spotted a house on the top of the mountain... Who would live there... Imagine that as a commute down everyday?!?

By this time I realised I wasn't going to make it to Geirengerfjord before I was too tired to ride so I pressed on and did another 50km before stopping.


I found a lovely little campsite for the night and got set up.



11.5 hours on the road, 500km ridden and I'm now the owner of a sore shoulder and tired face.

Big thanks again to everyone for their support. I'm getting very tired and sore now all over  but the messages of good luck are keeping my spirits up.

It's been a long old slog but every time I get sore, or tired, or wet.. It reminds of why I'm doing this.. To raise awareness and funds for brain injured children. Most of these kidz will never get the chance to ride a motorbike around such a beautiful country - so when I moan in my head about it being cold or raining it's a stark reminder about how lucky I am to be able to do this! 

I feel truely blessed to have been able to combine my passions of biking and raising money for Cerebra and it's down to each one of you (30,000 view btw) who reads this blog that has made it happen!

Tomorrow I head south again for Olso via down fjords.

Until then, ride safe.

Gordon