Undertaking the lessons for the above was certainly one of the best things I have done in recent years. I absolutely love driving, and driving well. Having finished my bike lessons and being utterly horrified at how sloppy my driving had become, I decided to take up the lessons with the IAM, and I joined the Limavady group. Altogether, it took me about 12 weeks. This involved one lesson of about 2 hours duration a week, where I travelled to Dungiven to pick up my observer. We spent about 1 1/2 hours driving on all types of roads from single track to motorways, with the final 1/2 hour looking at road signs and the theory of driving. Some days I was really tired afterwards, but it was so satisfying.
Observation and anticipation were the buzz words, that is what type and colour of car was coming towards you, looking out for tractors and farm vehicles on the roads, straying animals, and within the towns, children dashing out between parked cars. Another good tip was the Sunday driver visiting Mammy and coming home from visiting Mammy. They seem to drive at about 27 miles an hour whatever the effect Mammy has on them. And wearing wooly gloves and hats! Another Sunday potential hazard were the churchgoers, who, just because they have been in deep communion with the Almighty, think that they are invincible and will cross the road without looking left or right .
The observers undertake sitting in on these lessons without any remuneration, always stressing that they got so much from the initial experience themselves that they wanted to put something back, and that it very admirable. I would like to do the Observer’s Course myself, maybe later this year.
At times my poor observer despaired for me. ‘Helen, what do you do if there is an impatient driver close behind you’? Fling on the fogs was not the answer. ‘Helen, what would you do if a very slow driver was in front of you’? Hoot the horn and gern as you passed, was not the required answer either.
A car is not a sitting room. There is no need nowadays for rugs or cushions or those nodding animals , or those stickers which proclaim ‘Baby on Board’ – who cares? Where are the stickers saying “Grumpy old Get Drives this Car’, or’ Danger – Menopausal Woman on Board’?
That aside, this course taught me more about speed limits than I had paid attention to for years. Driving up, and more especially down, to the limit is good driving. I have cruise control which I use all the time, setting my speed just one point below, thus causing follow- on motorists no hassle.
Evidentially, this can save a motorist 2 full tanks of petrol a year. Also I make sure to check my oil, water and tyre pressures about once a fortnight; I keep my lamps clean and ensure the bulbs are all in working order by checking them on the garage door rather than getting out! I do not have any receipts or maps lingering on the dash as this causes glare. I get my car a full valet yearly and try to keep it clean between times. I would map read the evening beforehand should I be going somewhere unfamiliar, writing the names of the major towns and road numbers en route on a ‘post it’, which is stuck onto the centre of my steering heel, and calculating just how long the journey would take plus a bit of extra just in casey.
As for daily commute, pack the briefcase the night before. Lay out the clothes one intends wearing the night before also. Try not to rush, and if you are running late, be late and apologise when you get there . Next time, you will be on time!
All of this is common sense really, but it makes for such comfortable and enjoyable driving. We are in charge of quite a dangerous piece of kit. There are a lot of advantages of being in the IAM – 25% off AA membership, 20% discounts in quite a number of hotels on the Mainland, 20% off at selected insurance companies. It pays to shop around. I would urge you all to give it a go. You have nothing to lose and you will have such fun!
THE MOUNTAINS OF MOURNE SWEEP DOWN TO THE SEA
This year’s Hog’n’Bog Rally will be based in Newcastle, Co Down, where the mountains of Mourne literally sweep down to the sea. It is a veritable open-air playground providing coastal drives, hill walking, rock climbing, nature rambles, photography, canoeing, cycling, horse riding, bird watching, ﬁshing and world-class golf.
Shrouded in magic and majesty, the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Craob and the Ring of Gullion are areas of outstanding natural beauty and are without a doubt the most picturesque in Ireland. Filled with dizzying peaks, rolling valleys, tranquil forests and golden coastline, they are ready and waiting to be discovered by you, enjoyed, experienced and never forgotten.
Bring your cameras and binoculars. Switch off your engines, machine and your own self, and take time out to really listen to the mountains: the sounds overhead of the wind sighing in the trees, the different birdlife, the clear water streams tinkling over and polishing the boulders, wildlife scurrying through the forest underﬂoor; smell the earth and the pine needles and closer to the sea, smell the sea and hear the plaintiff calls of the seabirds. Observe the ever-changing colours, and think of Irish tweed – dull greens and dun browns interspersed with pops of the gorse yellow and the shy poppy ﬂowers of summer. You will be rejuvenated and feel simply great!
Travelling down from Belfast and the boat, and just 5 miles north of Newcastle is the village of Dundrum, best known for its ruined Anglo-Norman Castle. This is one of the most signiﬁcant and evocative castles in Northern Ireland, ranking in importance alongside Carrickfergus and Dunluce. The Dundrum Coastal path is built on the old railway line and runs along the shore of the Inner Bay, a lovely peaceful walk.
Dundrum Bay is one of only 3 places in Ireland where 2 currents meet to create ‘the magic wave’. The town has a great Heritage Trail too.
Murlough, Ireland’s ﬁrst national nature reserve, is a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system at the edge of Dundrum Bay. Its spectacular location has superb views over the bay to the Mourne Mountains, and is an excellent area for walking and birdwatching.
There is so much to see and do and explore in this fascinating countryside that really deserves a much longer stay than the Rally weekend. Bring your walking boots too! And of course, come back!
Five miles further along the Mourne Coastal Road is the town of Newcastle where we will be based for the duration of the Rally. Newcastle is set in this stunning location at the base of Slieve Donnard, the highest of the Mourne Mountain Peaks. It is like any family seaside town, attracting crowds lining the promenade at weekends, especially bikers from all over Ireland. If you are a golfer, Royal County Down Golf Club is one of the world’s most celebrated links courses.
This areas’s heritage is tied closely to Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, and the story of how he brought Christianity to Ireland. The land’s built heritage also illustrates Ireland’s political and commercial history – the castles, dolmans and ruins that dot the rural landscape and coast.
Travel further along the road out of Newcastle and you will ﬁnd Annalong village, with its cornmill and harbour. The picturesque harbour dates back to the early 1800s. As well as ﬁshing, the harbour was used for many years for exporting the famous quarried Mourne granite. The restored cornmill has a working water wheel.
Ballykeel Portal Tomb is a dolmen known locally as the ‘Hog’s Chair’, and we being HOGs must pay it a visit for a photo session! – The Neolithic Burial site dated 4000 – 2500 BC has a huge capstone supported on uprights over an octagonal burial chamber.
Further along the coast road is Cranﬁeld Beach , Kilkeel, an award-winning beach lying at the mouth of Carlingford Lough.
Castlewellan Forest Park, Peace Maze and Mountain bike trails overlooks one of Northern Ireland’s most famous lakes with a stunning Victorian Castle in dramatic setting between the mountains and the sea. Castlewellan Forest is home to one of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. The beauty and perfect shape of the trees in the National Arboretum attracts tree enthusiasts from all around the world. To walk around the mile -long lake while encountering some intriquing modern sculptures on the way is to enjoy a great experience of 18th Century landscape,
To be continued ..
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Paddy Madden’s story:
Paddy Madden has been interested in motorcycles since he
was 16 years old ( about 10 years ago! ), having first
acquired a Yamaha RD125 twin in 1980, then a Honda CB
750 F2, a 1956 Triton, a Triumph 650 pre-unit engine
installed in a Norton Featherbed wideline frame which he
built himself, a Harley Fat Boy and a Harley CVO Roadglide
Ultra. His eyes lit up as he spoke of these old friends.
Paddy likes the lifestyle attached to the biking fraternity, all
being kindred spirits with lots to discuss, and he loves the
craic, a real petrol head.
He likes photography but hates gardening. What is it about
gardening that causes such antipathy in the biking
enthusiast? Surely it would be a lovely calming antidote to
all that speed and noise?
Paddy also enjoys going to bike rallies, having been on the
Harley to Cascais in Portugal, Thunder in the Glens,
Aviemore, Bikefest, Killarney, Wake the Lakes, Kendal and
the Gathering at Dunoon. He has been to France numerous
times and thoroughly recommends the roads for biking.
After a break from biking due to the old story of getting
married and raising a family, he got back into bikes through
demo sessions held at the Dealership in 2011, and in his
own words ‘ came back from the rideout grinning from ear to
His most memorable incident was in 1984 when he overtook
a tractor on the coast road at Portaferry that was trying to
tow a yacht up from the lough shore, no indication of an
obstruction on the highway. The tow rope snapped, result –
Tractor 1 Paddy 0, one broken wrist, the Yamaha with
wraparound handlebars, the yacht flying down Strangford
Lough and the RNLI lifeboat called out to the rescue. Who
said biking was boring? For some reason, Paddy and boats
don’t mix and that’s the story!
Stella Madden’s Story:
Stella, Paddy’s better half, first attended the Hog’nBog rally
4 years ago, surprising him. If you can’t beat them, join
them was her motto. She had made the hotel bookings, so
quite easily (too easily) gained access to their room and
after some Dutch courage – 2 glasses of Rioja – decided to
walk to the site. Halfway across the bridge she spotted a
familiar figure tottering towards her carrying an excellent set
of lights for the Fatboy. Straight out of a romantic novel,
they met mid-way on the bridge. He couldn’t believe it
because he had asked her so many times to join him. They
returned to the site and that was that. She met such lovely
people from the Chapter, was totally accepted and made to
feel so welcome. That was that. Totally bitten by the bug,
riding pillion, loving the life. They have toured France in the
company of fellow chapter members, visiting memorable
WW2 sites, Juno and Omaha beaches and cemetery, and
other famous locations like Pegasus Bridge and Sainte
Mere Eglise which still has a prop of an American
paratrooper caught on the Church spire, all truly uplifting
and humbling experiences.
Still to do on the bucket list is a tour of the USA. Last words
from the pair – just get on the bike and ENJOY life!
The Hog ‘n’Bog Rally, 2015
I rested my arms protectively along the top of the 5 bar gate, killing myself laughing at the antics going on down the yard in front of me, when I got the tap on my shoulder.
“Some security you are!”
“Whaddya mean? I’m minding the gates!”
“You’re supposed to be facing the road!”
Mental note to self – I may not be asked to do this job again.
This article is about volunteering really. I am a reluctant social drinker; I don’t smoke. Anything! I am a lone female in this environment teeming with male testosterone, and I am NOT looking for lurve. So what to do? Read a book? Volunteer?
8 years ago when I joined the Chapter, I started selling the little tickets and quickly could put names on faces. Everyone has been so kind and accepting of me, and no matter how many times I do the rounds, money appears. This all goes towards the Chapter Charity, and at the Rally, this is greatly helped by all the prizes donated by the members. Bikers are a generous lot. I have only had one consistent refusal, and if you are reading this, I will ask you again! Nicely, of course.
The rally always needs volunteers – to pack the rally packs, to collect fees and tickets at the door, to man the gates and generally to help out where needed. The hardest part is the clearing up afterwards as folk can be ‘tired’ from Saturday night’s shenanigans, and then it is left to the Director mainly. So please, support your Chapter in whatever way you can. I only have to think about the rallies and I smile. The endorphins ﬂood in and keep me in good form for a few hours again. I have got much more back from volunteering than I have put in, believe me. The craic is mighty.
The bike was purchased and had gone off to bike hospital for its transplant: it morphed into a glorious trike. Pearlised white, loads of chrome, shiny black-walled tyres. Mmmm!
I had carefully observed what the uniform du jour was and decided to customise. It simply had to be tight red leather. It screamed at me. Asymmetrical seams on the jacket, boldly top stitched, lots of zips and tight, tight trousers. None of those bendy knee and big ass things for me! I described all of this over the phone to my daughter. There was a moan and the words ‘mum – they’ll think you are a sofa and they’ll sit on you’. That was that. Deﬂation.
But I am a trier and I started knitting the socks in glorious multicolour, with cables and ribs and turndowns under the knee to keep me extra warm.
I purchased the Harley kilt, and on a visit to Scotland, found the most wonderful pewter kilt pin.
So, following on some lessons I decided it was time for an outing and set off down the A6 towards Belfast. On top, I had the usual garments and helmet, with the kilt, socks and thick boots on the bottom half. I was the living end in cutting-edge Harley style.
Then the wind caused the kilt to blow up. The pin beat a tattoo on the visor and I could hardly see. Oncoming trafﬁc was slow. Some drivers waved, some hooted, one even went so far as to double back for a second look.
OMG. A large expanse of gleaming white M and S knickers was on view. I’ll turn at the next roundabout I thought and everything will be OK. Now, if I were me, I would be very afraid. It was not the wind wot did it, it was the traction, and I just had to get home. More hoots. More waves. Thank goodness for the anonymity of the helmet, I thought. Then OMG. Double OMG. Totes morto! Sure haven’t I the only white trike in Northern Ireland!
My third and present outﬁt is just like everyone else’s, and my bum DOES look big in it. Drat!
For all those interested in staying over at Arnolds in Dunfanaghy on Saturday the 19th of March the cost is €87 pps in a twin or double room and includes Dinner, Bed and Breakfast. It is €20 extra if you want a single room. First Come First Served and they are looking for a €40 deposit to confirm you are staying.
Phone Number is 00353 74 913 6208
First Chapter Meeting of 2016. Dont miss it!
Please can Road Captains meet at 7:30 to put your name down for a ride out. Have a look at the calendar on http://www.belfasthog.com/
The National Trust have agreed to let us ride to top of Divis Mountain for something a bit different and a few photos this Saturday evening at 5PM. We will meet at 4PM at Mcdonalds Sprucefield and leave at 4:30 sharp.
After Divis we will ride to Tony Romas where they are giving us upstairs to ourselves and putting on 2 courses for £10. If you cant make the ride we will be at Tony Romas between 6:30 and 7PM.
Hope to see plenty of you there. If youve never been up Divis its one hell of a view!
Meet at city hall at 1030 and leave at 1100. M2 then M5 to Carrickfergus, coast road to Larne, continue on coast road as far as Glenarm. Take B97 out of Glenarm, then A42 into Broughshane, on to Ballymena, Portglenone, Maghera and into the Ponderosa Glenshane Pass for lunch around 1300. Ride out ends and there will be a run back to Belfast leaving around 1430. Belfast by 1600. Forecast for Sunday indicates sun but who knows??
Mid Antrim Run on Sunday 28th of June, meeting 10AM at Belfast HD and Led by Ady Hampsey to Ballyronan, Cookstown, Pomeroy, Gortin, Draperstown and lunch at Slims Bike Stop around 1:30PM
June Chapter Meeting – Thursday the 25th of June 8PM at Belfast Harley Davidson
April Chapter Meeting – Thursday the 30th of April 8PM at Belfast Harley Davidson
Permission has been granted by Northern Ireland Environment Agency to fire the gun at Grey Point Fort on the 25th April 2015 at approx. 1pm to commemorate the Gallipoli Campaigns 25th April 1915.
The chapter has been invited and there will be a BBQ after. Stay tuned for updates.
Belfast Chapter will gather at the Town Hall at 2pm on Monday 6 April (Easter Monday). Rather than leading the Parade they feel it would be better if we did a couple of laps of the Town to warm the crowd up.
Paul is planning a rideout – meeting at 10:30 am at Costa at the holywood exchange
The is theme – Pirates – so fancy dress or at least a patch or skull and cross bones on helmets would be great.
Aiming at 20 bike to ride in formation.
Return to the Town Hall then perhaps a short ride out and tea and buns at the Nixeys!
Our next ride out is on Sunday 22nd March, meeting at Sprucefield at 10:30am and leaving at 11:00am. We will be heading through the Dromara Hills over to Banbridge and cross country to Armagh, then on to Ballygawley via Caledon and down the old road back to The Cohannon Inn, Dungannon. Road Captain: Robbin McMinn
19th April confirmed for the ride-out. We will meet as usual at the City Hall around 9am to leave approx 9.30am to arrive at Willowfield Parish Church on the Woodstock Road at 10am.
March Chapter Meeting – Thursday the 26th of March 8PM
Anyone who did the course two years ago can have a refresher and it is also open to new trainees. Price, time and further details TBC