29 November, 2011

Bush braai, Xmas dinner and Toyrun 2011

 Another tick done this year: I participated in the Toy run 2011.

Rewind many a year to when I was still at school, and I partisipated in the toy run with Roger. We both did it on our 50cc bikes. He had a RZ and I had a DT. Both Yamahas. I year or 2 later we did it again. Him with his then girlfriend, now wife, and as Roger's mom wanted to go with she was on the back of my bike.
One other thing I remember as that the going was very slow, and we took our helmets off while riding in convoy to the final venue, which was somewhere in Primrose if memory serves me right.

When I got the Bajaj, in December last year, I wanted to again experience the Toyrun, but I got the bike a few days after the Toyrun, and I hoped at the time to do it next year. Since its a small 180 cc, maybe Anya would be able to come with me. But those hopes were dashed when the engine ceased.

A few other things came together and I was able to purchase a F650GS twin. It's a bigger bike, and that meant Trish could come with me, and we could experience it together.

But before I can get to the Toyrun we need to get throguh the rest of the whirlwind weekend of the 26 / 27 November.

We are going live in less then a week with a new system at work, with lots of late nights being put in, finalising some issues. My boet was out here from the UK with his girlfriend, and the extended family were all invited for the weekend away in the bush near Mokopane (p.k.a  Potgietersrus). Trish and I also had my companies Xmas dinner on the Saturday, and the Toyrun on the Sunday. The plan was to leave early on Friday, if I had resolved all my issues at work, spend the Friday night in the bush, leave the kids there with the others, come back Saturday afternoon, go to the Xmas dinner Saturday night, and do the Toyrun on Sunday, if the hangover was not to bad.

There were a few later nights then expected, and I had a feeling that I might not be able to leave early on Friday for the 3.5 hour drive. If I could not leave the weekend would be spoilt for the whole family. So I organised that my sons could drive with their Ouma and Oupa early in the morning. Anya's aunt was kind enough, wanting to leave a little later, and give her a ride. So now if I would need to work late at least it is just Trish and me who wont be able to make it.

Friday night: Thaba-Nkwe
Luck was on my side, and I resolved all issues by 2 PM, and with all other parties using my module left for home. By the time I arrived, Trish had packed our bag, and we left just after 3PM for the long drive to Thaba-Nkwe near Mokopane.

The time at Thaba-Nkwe was realy nice. We had T-bone on the braai, potato salad which Trish made and some garlic bread. Saturday night I slept not to well. The room we had didn't have a headboard and the room being round meant that my pillow kept falling off the bed. The bed being quite short for me, also did not help, as my feet were hanging off the other end.

Saturday morning I got up just after 8 AM, Quite late for me, but much earlier then my Aunt and Uncle, as well as Julie and Jerome. Once everyone was up we made breakfast bush style. We made a fire, and added the coals to a oven come hot plate. Oupa cooked the onions, tomatoes, bacon and eggs on it, while Alex and me did toast over some other coals using a grid.
Afterwards, at around 11 it was cake and tea time, and also my aunts birthday. We did the traditional "Happy birthday song" and the Damhuis tradition of clapping each year the person is old. ... Lets just say it took quite some time. I hope to get to the same count one day.

At about 1 PM Trish and I said our good byes and left for home so we could shower, and prepare for the Xmas dinner.

Xmas dinner:
As I was getting dressed all in black, I realised my black shoes were still at work. (I ride home on a motorbike with proper riding boots). This was now a problem and as we had to leave in 10 minutes there was no way of getting the shoes in time. So on with some tekkies. Not posh but the only option I had available. The dinner was held at held at Scarlet Ribbon at Greenstone Ridge, not to far from home. AS all Investment Solutions Xmas parties, I was really looking forward to it. I was a little disappointed in the amount of food. The starter was tasty. The main was also tasty, but the lamb was undercooked, and almost raw. Pudding was also good, but not enough.

Each person got 500 play play money, and after dinner we all went to the gambling tables which was part of the night's theme. I tried my hand at roulette. Initially I made quite a bit of money, but tried to double it on red after it fell 3 times on black, and lost all my chips. It was fun playing any case. We left at about 12, and went past some friends who had a braai. I could fill up on some left over braai meet, which went down with a sprite.

Eventually we got into bed at about 1 AM. I was pretty sure we would be missing the Toy run. But would see what the morning brings.

The Toyrun:
 Sunday morning I awoke at about 7AM. I tossed and turned and tried to get back to sleep, but could not, eventually getting up by about 7H30. I left Trish sleeping while I got the bike out, packed the rucksack and got the rest of the riding apparel ready. I had taped a little squirrel to my front bike visor, and added a few other toys to the rucksack with their faces sticking out. Trish had a cup of coffee just before we left

Arriving at ground zero, I have never seen so many bikes together in one go. There were possibly around 2 or 3 thousand bikes. We rode through the crowed and stopped at the back of the group. I took a few photos. I little later we got the signal that we were about to leave. It took some more time, before we actualy left.

We left Checkers Hyper car park, with police blocking off the road for us bikers and then got onto the highway towards the airport. I was even impressed that they stopped the cars on the highway for us. We rode past the airport and got off by the Atlas road off-ramp, then left and right at the next traffic lights, and then followed the long "Great North Road" into Benoni.
 Trish and I stopped along the road to take some photos of the bikes, and then re-joined the group right at the back. Arriving at the sport grounds we saw even more bikes. I looked for a few other GS's and park my bike close by. Safety in groups I say.
I saw the one GS had a top box and went to speak to the owner, who introduced himself as Mark. After some more chatting I excused myself and Trish and I went to drop off our bears. Then we went looking for a tent which sold some food, as we both had not eaten yet.

One tent was not to busy, and the burgers seemed like a decent size. Trish ordered a Cheesy something or other I had a burger. Nice in size, but the meat was still raw. I had a byte of Trish's breakfast and it tasted a lot better then mine. We had another bit of a walk throgu hall the stalls and then left for home.

On the way home we drove past a pet shop, and I thought we could quickly stop and look how much the African Greys cost. No baby birds, but a nice breading pair for R2900.00. Still a bit expensive.
Since we weren't in a hurry decided to go past another bird shop we had passed, and their birds seems quite expensive. I also saw a beautiful stone from for R100.00 with would look nice next to the pond. Also an eagle on a rock for R190.00 which seemed very reasonable priced.

We visited two other pet shops but they either did not have babies, or it wasn't to our liking.

We got home shortly after 13H00, and the GPS said we had travelled just under 80km.

In the afternoon I helped Trish make home made lasagna and we entertained my folks, and Rudi and his girfriend for dinner.

All in all a very busy weekend.

05 November, 2011

BMW F650GS Twin

Today was the realisation of a 20 year old dream. I got my BMW F650GS bike.

When I was young, and still at school I rode a 50cc and later a 440cc motorbike. I loved it, but as I got to the dating scene, decided a car would be better, and left the motorbike scene. At the time I decided some time later in my life I'll get a bike again when I could afford a "proper" bike.

Fast forward quite a few years to 2005.

My brother Rudi is a bit of an adventure freak. One of the trips he had undertaken was ride his bike from London to Cape Town all on his own. He did it in just under 2 months, and he did it on a F650GS. The 15 000 km went without indecent. With hind sight I would have loved to have been at our parents house when he arrived, but we had people over that day, and I felt bad leaving them. This was another lesson learned. Be there for other peoples mile stones and achievements. Any case. When speaking to my brother before he left for Cape Town about his trip, I realised what a good bike he had, and at that point decided when I get my "big" bike it will be a F650GS.

At the end of 2010 I got a Bajaj 180 very cheap and used it to work and back, but it gave up the ghost a few months ago, and a was bound to the car, and lots of traffic. I missed the little bike, but wanted more power. I was also looking forward to joining the Toyrun at the end of November. Now it looked like I would be missing that as well.

I applied at my bank (ABSA) for a personal loan, and after 6 weeks still had not heard if the loan was either approved or declined. Very bad service from ABSA if you ask me. I lodged a complaint and then for the 1st time in 6 weeks there was some action, and eventually the loan was approved at a rate I thought was quite high.

I started looking for a bike. The plan was to get a bike with panniers. Trish and I have been talking for some time that we would like to go away for weekends once in a while. Just the two of us and my idea was to do this on a bike. A bike is cheaper, and I think much more thrilling way of enjoying a weekend away. This is also where the panniers come in. One for her. And one for me.

My heart was set on a canary yellow BMW. To me its an awesome colour. But as the cookie crumbled none were available when I started looking. I cant (or rather don't want to) afford new. I find it just to expensive. But I wanted to buy from a reputable dealer, and the only real dealers would be BMW Motorrad.

I looked and looked for a bike. None at Corlett drive. None in Boksburg either. Only place where there seemed some were available was in Pretoria. We took a drive out there last weekend. There were 2 possibilities, and neither of them were in yellow. One was a Dakar, and the other a blue GS with panniers. I liked the bike with the panniers, but from internet research thought it was a little expensive, since the panniers were home made, and the milage was also a little high. We went to another BMW motorrad dealer, and a 650 Dakar which was available was snatched up already. It seems the 650GS and Dakars go like hot cakes.

We spoke some more, and looked at various options. Ideally we would like a slightly bigger bike
which would easily accommodate us on weekend trips. But the 800 I think is a little bit to big for town commuting, as I want to save petrol to work and back. The idea of the 'F650GS Twin' or better described as the 'K72 F650GS' came up. Maybe it would be worth it to now spend a little extra, get the stronger 650, and be set for quite some time to come. Looking on the internet there were a few twins available, and a specific one at Zambezi Motorrad. I phoned them up, and a long story short found out the interest rate BMW finance would charge me was 1.5% less than what ABSA offered. The service from Zambezi was excellent and I therefore decided to buy the bike there and then without seeing it. Some friends found this strange. But honestly...if you know what the colour is (Silver / grey). Its a 2009 model (How much can be wrong with it), and only 13 800 on the clocks (Its still brand new). Why the need to see the bike before hand? I signed the OTP, emailed it through and organised to pick up the bike on Saturday morning. This all happened on Wednesday.
That night I could hardly sleep. I woke up at around one. Adrenalin pumping through my vains in the anticipation of getting the bike. Same with Thursday. I felt a little bad, as it affected my concentration a little at work, and I felt a little tired by 2PM.

Saturday morning came and again I woke up very early, and eventualy getting up making a cup of tea, and get through the last 4 days of personal emails. By 5AM I felt tired again, and tried to sleep. Couldn't. Its only 4 hours before I can get my new bike!

On the way there we stopped of for a cache in Pretoria. We doing the Play play park series by Villagegoers, and all caches are in the Johannesburg area, except one. And since the only one not in Johannesburg is in Pretoria and that is where we getting the bike from decided to grab it on the way. We found the cache, after phoning a friend for help, and then I really started to get excited. I think the last time I was this excited was on my honeymoon night.

Arriving at Zambezi Motorrad I saw the bike properly for the 1st time. The silver was a little darker then I had expected. But later on out in the sun it was more the lightness I had expected.

With hind sight I maybe should not have bought a silver bike. Although silver is the most common colour for a vehicle, it is the least visible colour. I compensated for this by purchasing a "Think bike" jacked to make me more visible. More about that later. Either way I liked what I saw.
Then it was time to sign the papers. And lots of them. But all was well prepared, and it went quite quickly. It felt that every thing was well explained to me. I also got a 2 year mechanical warranty on the engine, which I did not expect. Nice "bonus".

Oh yes .... Oliver, a good friend of mine has the F800, and he sent me the user manual on the F650GS. I had read most of it before Saturday.

The only issue I could have with the bike is that the grips were in a bad state. Quick explenation: BMW bikes, as an optional extra have heated grips. The previous guy must have ridden with them on for a long time, and they had melted a little. But then it is a second hand bike. If that is the only thing which is wrong, then I can more then live with it.

By the time I had to take delivery of the bike and I was taken through all the functions, knobs and lights it was really only a recap of what I had read. And I felt I could ask the questions the manual could not answer when I was reading it. I think the Motorrad guy was quite impressed with what I knew. It really paid of to read the manual before hand.

On delivery I also got a rucksack, T-shirt (which was exchanged for a bigger one), and a 'cramp buster'.

It was only then that I for the first time rode the bike. And boy what a lovely feeling. I did a quick figure 8, just to feel the heaviness of the bike, and then parked it and suited up for the trip home.

My helmet got passed on to Jerome who just turned 16 and got his own bike, licence and freedom. So I used an old Aero helmet (or whatever it is called).

After suiting up it was off the Auto Glass to get it approved for insurance purposes, and then it was time to go home. I promised myself that I would keep the revs under 5000 until I am used to the bike. And yes I did. We got to the highway and just before we got on my hands got really hot. For a second I got a fright and thought the bike was overheating. Then I realised the heated grips must be on and saw the setting was on 2. Whew!! Panic station over. Once on the highway I opened her up a little after 5 km or so. Nice! I like the power. But boy .... there is a lot of wind at 120 kph. I never had that on my Bajaj. Then again the Bajaj never got over 90. It took quite a bit of getting used to. Also the indicators are different from other bikes I had ridden, but by the end of the day I am almost used to it.

The noise within the helmet was also really bad. So much so that I wished the trip over because of the noise, long before my butt got sore. Also the pressure of the helmet of my forehead gave me a headache. So much so that I decided to just give in and buy a new helmet (see further below).

The bike has 6 gears. I think all the other bikes I have had have only 5. So it is something to get used to as well. To gear up to 6, instead of leaving her in 5th.

Once we got off the highway back in Edenvale, I opened her up a little from the stop street. The throttle was not even half way I think, and the acceleration was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. When we arrived at M&A I had quite a headache, and decided to get a new helmet at Full Throttle.

At Full Throttle I got Nitro helmet (with complementary cap). It is a flip up helmet, and it has a sun visor. It makes one feel like a fighter pilot. Trish saw a black Mars helmet which she liked, and I decided to buy that for her as well. Then at least she has her own helmet when we go on our Sunday morning breakfast rides.

At first I was very sceptical on the hinged helmet idea, but pulling down the hinge it felt and sounded quite solid. I wore my helmet on the way home, and took it on the highway for a short ride. Wind noise still quite loud but much better then the old red helmet. I will definitely use the earplugs, and we got Trish some as well.

With the "Go Live" of our software project at work being only 18 days away, I have been putting in some extra hours to try and get everything done which has to get done. Which means I usually get home at around 7PM, and it is quite dark. With a silver grey bike being less visible, I decided to buy a "Think Bike" vest, just to be more visible.

Once home, I added my GPSr holder to the bike, and then took Trish on a short ride too her brother to show off the new bike. The way she held me I knew she was very nervous. But she seemed excited as well. I took it very easy with her, and only opened it up a little once we were in 6th gear doing about 60 and took the bike up to about 90. Just to give her a feeling.
I also left my sun glasses at home, and opted to try my normal glasses with the flip down sun visor. I think it works quite OK.

Once home I took my daughter to my folks so they could see the bike. She had been wanting to go for a ride the whole morning, but I had promised myself that once I got a bigger bike Trish would be the 1st on to get a ride.

All in all today was a milestone day. One I had been looking forward to in a long long time. BMW made the experience very nice, and was the cherry on cake. The cream was the new helmets.

Tomorrow after church and Rein's first communion I will take Trish on a breakfast ride to a nearby coffee shop. A shop where we did a geocache some years ago, which she enjoyed at the time. Then the weekend after a little further. And hopefully in no time we can go away for a weekend.