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Scotland Trip – 2016

by Harry Dunwoody
Time for another tale, a diary of what we did and who we toured with on our trip this year. This time it was with our good friends Greg and Pam Duval from Orem near Salt lake City , Utah .We met them a few years ago and tour-guided them over here on two previous visits to Ireland. They came back this year after we met up with them when we were in Zion last November. They had nothing overseas planned for this year so when we suggested they come over and join us on a trip in Scotland they said they would think about it.
Helen had accommodation booked for us in Kenmore, I had a Road Glide Ultra reserved with Wilmer at Belfast Harley-Davidson hoping they would be tempted to join us. They confirmed they would be coming over so Helen also booked their tickets for the ferry, Edinburgh Tattoo and two rooms at the Holiday Inn Hotel near to the city centre and within walking distance of The Royal Mile. Lots of e-mails passed back and forth fine tuning this trip to make sure everything would run smoothly.
They arrived on 11th August, picked up the Road Glide the next day and packed it ready to leave early on Saturday from Larne for Scotland. A shower whilst on the road between Ayr and Junction 3 at Paisley was the only rain we saw the whole time we were on tour. A stop for lunch at the Minishant Inn then on through Paisley, over the Erskine Bridge, along the side of Loch Lomond to Crainlarich, Killin and then down the side of Loch Tay to our resort in Kenmore.
On Sunday we took a short ride back along Loch Tay to Killin to see the picturesque Falls of Dochart in the middle of the town then back by the more adventurous and interesting road / track down the other side of the Loch to Kenmore. Our evening meal was in the very good on-site restaurant overlooking Loch Tay.
Monday we took the road through Aberfeldy and Blairgowrie to Forfar and made our way to the Davidson Family home near Aberlemno where we met with Mike Sinclair who gave us a great tour of the now renovated old home. He made us coffee then gave us a very informative talk on all things relating to the house and family. Another patch and pin bought for my collection. On our way back we stopped in Pitlochry for some shopping and our evening meal.
Tuesday we set the Sat-Nav for Edinburgh and it took us on a track over the mountains. It wasn’t as good as a track but eventually it took us onto an “A” road. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience and Pam bought me a map later that day. A great coffee shop in Crieff, more interesting roads and eventually the ring road round Edinburgh where we made our way to Edinburgh Harley-Davidson. A few tee-shirts for Greg and Pam then on to our hotel in the city centre. Bikes parked, clothes changed and up the Royal Mile to find somewhere to eat. Then it was a slow walk with more shopping and sidewalk entertainment due to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe taking place on the way to the Tattoo. The place was packed for another great evening display of Military Bands, Pipes, Scottish Dancing, The Imps Motorcycle Display Team and other artists. By the time we got out of the Castle and back to our hotel it was past my bed-time.
After a good breakfast and bikes packed up we made our way to South Queensferry to see the new road bridge over the Forth of Firth and then to see the amazing Falkirk Wheel. It raises and lowers barges on the canal linking Glasgow and Edinburgh. A most amazing must see feat of engineering if you are anywhere near it. It was featured on the BBC’s Great Canal Journeys a while back. Then across country again to Crieff for another coffee and gift shop visit. Whilst there we had the pleasure of a visit by a Royal Princess from Dubai. Then back to Aberfeldy by an alternative route over the mountains and then the six miles on a great biking road to Kenmore. We had eaten a good lunch earlier so we stayed in and had an early night.
Thursday we took a short ride to see Loch Tummel, then some shopping in Pitlochry ending at up and enjoying an afternoon visit to an amazing and enjoyable Blair Castle. Helen and I have passed by this castle many times on our holidays but this was our first time to see the inside. For our evening meal we tried the restaurant across the road from our resort at Kenmore.
Friday morning after breakfast and packing the bikes we left Kenmore for Aviemore. We had two routes in mind, if the weather was poor we would stay on the main road and go straight up the A9 to Aviemore. The other, if it was good, by the more interesting and scenic route through the Cairngorm National Park. This route took us through Pitlochry, Braemar, Tomintoul, by-passing Grantown-on-Spey and into Aviemore. For those of you who ride directly to the Thunder in the Glens Rally every year you should allow a bit more time and take this route. You won’t be disappointed with either the scenery, the roads or the views. On your way you can stop and see the 17th century Braemar Castle and if you stand on your seat while still riding you might just get a glance of Balmoral Castle as it has high hedges and a no-stopping zone. On arrival at Aviemore we checked into our chalets at the High Range complex at the bottom of the town. A quick change into our jeans and then a good meal at the Cairngorm Hotel and up to the Macdonald Resort to register and collect our most important wrist bands and Rally Pin.
On Saturday Greg and I watched the Bike Parade whilst Helen and Pam took the train to Inverness for some shopping and sightseeing. We then made our way to Grantown in time to have coffee before the Parade arrived. As usual it was tremendous to watch and then we strolled up the main street to see all the Harleys on display, meet up with friends from our own Belfast Chapter and others we have made over the years. I also got to meet some of the guys from Red Rose Chapter I trained with on my Road Captains Course. After spending the rest of the afternoon at Grantown, Greg and I rode to Inverness to collect Helen and Pam. We had all their gear in the side boxes for the journey back to Aviemore.
Our evening meal was in the Castle Tavern beside Inverness Castle. Helen and I had eaten there several times before on previous tours and could recommend it. Then it was just a ride down the A9 to Aviemore and in for the evening.
Sunday started with breakfast in the Roo’s Leap beside the train station, then a walk round the town to see the other stalls and back for the bikes for a ride up the mountain on the railway to the top for views over the surrounding area. Sunday evening we dined in the popular Taverna Italian Pizza Restaurant on the High Range complex. Then it was time to get packed for the ride home in the morning.
Monday morning, sun shining for a change as we left Aviemore after another great week-end. We were joined on our way back to Cairnryan by Glenn and Margaret Sands, Ian and Jean Mc Cracken and Niall Mc Carragher. Our usual route to the ferry is by Newtonmore, Spean Bridge, Fort William to our coffee stop at Glencoe Village. Back on the Harleys through Glencoe, Crainlarich, with a stop for fuel and another break just before the Erskine Bridge, Paisley and a dinner stop at the Minishant Inn. This has become a favourite stop for us these last few years on the way to and from Aviemore. Their food is really good with parking right at the door. Margaret took our food orders, phoned them in and our meals were ready shortly after we arrived. The rest of the ride to Cairnryan where we met with Norman, Ken and Lex was still in beautiful sunshine. There are a lot of Belfast Chapter members make this journey to Thunder in the Glens every year. Good byes are said on the boat as we approach Belfast and the group split up and go their separate ways.
Greg and Pam’s Road Glide was returned on Tuesday morning when the shop opened then we took a drive to Ballycastle and down the Antrim Coast, another favourite of mine. Our last meal with them before going home was in The Quay’s in Portavogie.
I could say without hesitation they enjoyed the whole experience, especially the Rally with the Tattoo a close second. Scotland and everything there really excited them. Their vacation was now almost over with just an early rise on Wednesday for their flight home.
This is our forth vacation with them, two when we tour-guided them in Ireland, another when they tour-guided us in Utah and this most recent tour of Scotland. Greg is a very skilful rider and over the 1200 miles we rode together I never once had any concerns with his ability to keep-up, negotiate heavy traffic or overtake.
The Dunedin HOG Chapter from Edinburgh Harley-Davidson did a fantastic job of putting their 20th Thunder in the Glens Rally together. This is where you finish by saying both the Destination and the Journey are worth the ride.
Happy Trails,
Harry Dunwoody.
Photos— Greg and Pam at Ailsa Craig, Aberlemno, Falkirk Wheel, Bridge at Glenshiel Lodge/A939, Falls of Dochart and Glencoe.

France and Belgium Trip – 2014

by Harry Dunwoody

This year, 2014,  was a very special year for me as it was the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War 1 and also of the death of my Grand-Father, killed serving King and Country.  Years back my Grand-Mother gave me all the paperwork she had relating to his death in Belgium at the start of the Great War.  Included was a picture post card of the Menin Gate in the Belgian town of Ypres and on the back of it were all the details of where his inscription could be found.  He served with the Irish Guards and was with the British Expeditionary Force made up of Guards Regiments sent to Belgium at the start of the war.  During an intense battle with the Germans at the end of October his group was over-run and for a few days he was reported as missing in action then declared dead on 6th November 1914.  Along with over 56,000 soldiers of the Commonwealth remembered with no known grave his inscription is on panel 11 of the Menin Gate.

This was my third visit and after reading The History of the Irish Guards in the 1st World War, Regimental War Diaries and researching on the internet I found as near as I could possibly hope the place he died.

Travelling companions for Helen and me on this trip were Margaret and Glenn Sands.  Having crossed from Rosslare to Cherbourg we made the beautiful cathedral city of Bayeaux, famous for the Bayeaux Tapestry, our base for two days to visit St Mere-Eglise, the Normandy Beaches and Bayeaux Memorials.

Then we made our way around Amiens to the Best Western Hotel in Albert in the Thiepval area of the Somme for two more days.  Just out of Albert is the massive Lochnagar Crater at La Boisselle that is 300ft across and 70ft deep.  On 1st July 1916 Pte George Newell was reported missing in action at this spot, his body was found in 1998, identified and then buried at Ovillers Cemetery just across the road from where he went missing, an incredible fact and dedication to the missing by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.  This area is dotted with cemetries along every main road honouring soldiers from New Zealand and Australia at Pozieres, Longueval and Peronne, South Africans at Delville Wood, Longueval, Canadian Newfoundland Memorial, Beaumont- Hamel and the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval for the French-British.  Of particular significance to us was the Ulster Tower, built in 1921 commemorating soldiers of the Ulster Divisions who fought and died there on the 1st July 1916.  It is modelled on Helen’s Tower in the Clandeboye Estate, Conlig, where the men trained before leaving for the front.  Our tour guide there was Teddy Colligan from Belfast, a competitve motorcyclist of days gone by who is an absolute mine of information, ably assisted by his wife Phoebe who runs the cafe and shop. Yhey live in the Tower.  Having mentioned the main purpose of our visit Teddy gave me a poppy wreath to place at Polygon Wood about 5 miles from Ypres.  This was where I had decided through my research my Grand-Father had died.

Leaving Albert I had another task to perform for my friends, John and Maureen Mc Clure  To visit and photograph Maureen’s Grand-Father’s Memorial at Vis-en-Artois which was on our route from Albert to Vimy.  He served with the North Irish Horse Regiment and was killed near the end of the war in 1918.

Then it was on to Vimy where a major battle was fought between the Canadians and Germans, to see the Canadian Memorial.  We spent a few hours here looking round the bomb craters, trenches, both cemetries and information centre and then visited their massive 120ft high memorial overlooking the Douai Plains.

Back on the Harleys again and straight to Ypres and Varlet Farm, our B&B for the next three nights.  An excellent place to stay and convenient to Tyne Cot and Passchendaele Cemetries and so many of the other cemetries in the area such as the Welsh and German cemetries at Langemark-Polkepelle.  We arrived in time  to see the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.  This has taken place every night of the week at 8pm since 1928 except during WW2.

Our first full day was spent visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery and then finding Polygon Wood where I was able to place a wreath  in memory of my Grand-Father at a no-name headstone in the Commonwealth Graves Commission Cemetery.  There are a lot of these headstones with the inscription “A Soldier of the Great War” and “Known unto God” on them in all the cemetries.  The 5th Australian Army also fought the Germans there in 1916 and have an impressive Memorial and Cemetery at the bottom of the Wood.  At the other end of Polygon Wood is the Black Watch Corner Memorial, commemorating almost 9,000 killed and 20,000 wounded from The Black Watch and Cameron  Highlanders.  Our travels then took us cross country, passing the windmill,  the Sobbing Soldier Canadian Memorial on our way to see the German Cemetery at Langemark-Poelkapelle.  On entering this cemetery there is a mass grave with 24,000 dead soldiers right in front of you along with a lot of multiple graves.   Back in Langemark while we were looking for the newly erected Welsh Dragon we came across a Welsh choir and members of the Welsh Parliament holding a dedication service to a poet and their new cemetery.    We passed the windmill and Sobbing Soldier again and on to see the cemetery at .Passchendaele.  Another very large British Cemetery not far from from our B&B.  Then it was back to Ypres again for our second Last Post Service.

Next morning we made our way back to Ypres  for some sightseeing of this beautiful town, bombed out of all recognition during the two world wars but now restored.  The Cloth Hall, St Marten’s Cathedral and the town centre were almost completely demolished and it is a credit to the Belgian people that they have had everything rebuilt to their remarkable original condition. In the afternoon we went to visit a motor museum on the outskirts of Ypres. On the way there and on the way back we passed numerous out of the way cemetries.  Back to Ypres again, only early this time so we could go for our evening meal before going to the Menin Gate for our third Last Post Service.

There are around 320 Cemetries and Memorials in the Somme and Ypres area. The three days we spent there only scratched the surface of all there is to see and this was our third trip.

Tuesday morning we left Varlet Farm for Ijmuiden in Holland for the overnight ferry to Newcastle.  Panic setting in along the way as we encountered two serious traffic jams on the motorway with the clock ticking away.  We did make the ferry in good time, had a rough crossing to Newcastle and finished off with a very pleasant ride through Northumberland Nat Park and Jedburgh to Edinburgh.   We made a short visit to Edinburgh Harley-Davidson on the way to our accomodation, booked for two nights as we had tickets for the Military Tattoo. Great seats and a tremendous experience.  Fortnately we had no need for the Harley that day, just our wet suits, as we had really heavy rain most of Thursday and were very fortunate it stopped just as we stepped off the bus in The Royal Mile before the tattoo started.

Friday morning we set off for the Thunder in the Glens Rally in Aviemore via the Forth Bridge and Perth, where we met up with John O’Neill. For all who have attended this rally they will know it is one of the best in the whole country.  The location, the atmosphere, the roads there and back home through the mountains, Saturday’s parade and ride-out to Grantown-on Spey, the rally has it all.  A light shower on Saturday afternoon, unusual for Scotland was all the bad weather we experienced at this year’s event.

On Sunday the sun shone, so Brian Hazeley, Helen and I took the railway to the top of the Cairngorm mountains and enjoyed tremendous views over the whole mountain range.  Glenn, Margaret and John went in the other direction and took a ride round Loch Ness exploring that area.

Leaving on Monday morning, rally over for another year, we crossed over to Spean Bridge and rode through Fort William, stopping for a break at Glencoe Village  before riding up through Glencoe to The Green Welly for fuel.  Then on to Crainlarich, down beside Loch Lomond, across the Erskine Bridge, through Paisley, Ayr with a stop at Minishant for a meal then Cairnryan for the boat.  Back home for a rest.

Lake Superior Circle Tour – July ’13

by Harry Dunwoody

This year’s motor cycle trip for Helen and me was to Grand Rapids in Michigan.  This was at the invitation of our friends May and Len Vining whom we had tour guided in Ireland and Scotland on previous visits .  The tour started from their home where we stayed for a few days to rest from our travels before hitting the road.  Our transport for the ride would be one of Len’s CVO Electra Glides from his collection of Harleys.  We had an afternoon to prepare and I  adjusted tyre pressures, suspension settings, gear lever and footrest positions, test rode and fuelled it for leaving on the morning of 4th July.  It was lucky we did all this the day before leaving as the Harley Len was using had been at the dealers for a service and faulty heated grips checked and repaired.  It was then returned to his home in their truck.  Whilst having this work done they had drained the battery and it failed to start when we were ready to go to refuel.   A quick removal of the seat and a set of jump leads got it going again then after fuelling we put it on the trickle charger for the next morning.
                First day’s route was from Grand Rapids through Cadillac, Petoskey, lunch in Bay Harbour and Tunnel of Trees to Makinaw City for our first overnight.  First problem we encountered was trying to find somewhere to stay as we had overlooked this being 4th July and American Independence Day and rooms were very scarce and mostly three times the going rate.  By sheer luck we got two rooms,  May had to take a shortcut and run over the grass to get into hotel reception before another couple who had spied the Vacancy Sign.  Then it was a change of clothes, a walk round the City, evening meal, watch the fireworks and bed. (Approx 250 miles.)
               Up early, as was the routine every morning, breakfast, Harley store for a pin  and over the  Mackinaw Bridge to St Ignace.  One lane of this bridge is of steel grid construction and is open down to the waters below.  The bike almost steers itself over this type of surface and really all you do is hold on and hope for the best.  We were now in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, on Hwy 2 heading for Munising and a boat ride to see the Pictured Rocks.  Neither May or Len had been there before so it was a good opportunity for them to see the cliff face as well.  This took most of the afternoon and then we had to ride 45 miles to Marquette to find a hotel.  Same problem as it was the holiday week-end.  We eventually did find a very nice hotel with a restaurant right beside it and Bald Eagle Harley Davidson just down the road. (Approx 170 miles.)
              A brief stop next morning at the Harley Dealer for a Pin then we were on our way to Copper Harbour  for lunch during which we had a power cut due to the extremely hot temperatures and the demands of the residents and their air conditioners.  Apparently this is a regular problem at this time of the year in this area.  Luckily our lunch had already been served but we had to eat it in the dark.  We took a back road down by the coast and over the massive swing bridge at Houghton and on to Ashland where we encountered our first brief and very sudden shower of rain.  By the time we got stopped and put on our wet suits the rain was over.  It was then only a short ride in the wet to our hotel.  Again we were fortunate as there was a restaurant right beside us so we were able to park up for the night and walk for our evening meal.  (Approx 340 miles.)
              As we left the following morning for Duluth, Minnesota, we experienced a very heavy mist, more like a heavy drizzle from Lake Superior that stayed with us most of the morning.  It slowed us down quite a bit and we also missed seeing so much of the countryside, shoreline and harbour.  Duluth has a massive port and railways for the iron ore and coal boats that leave from there to service the steel plants in Detroit and around the Great Lakes.  Leaving Minnesota it then cleared as we made our way to the Canadian Border and along the shore to Thunder Bay for our next overnight.  Again it was another good hotel and restaurant with parking round the back for the Harleys.  (Approx 260 miles.)
              Thunder Bay Harley Davidson was only two minutes away from the hotel so a quick call there for a pin and T-shirt for both Len and me before we got on the road for another day.   Sunny weather and first class roads with virtually no traffic on them made for a really good ride although the speed limit was only 80KPH.  Today’s ride took us through Terrace Bay and Marathon on the way to Wawa.  You know you’re in Wawa when you see the giant Canada Goose on the edge of town.  Len had been there before and took us for a tour of the town, a fuel stop and then to our lodge just a mile out of town.  This part of the ride was very scenic with mountains on our left and the Lake and islands on our right.  (Approx 300 miles.)
              Today we would ride into Sault Ste Marie and visit the world famous and massive “Soo Locks.” We were fortunate to see a bulk carrier and a barge with an enormous crane pass through, then we crossed the Canadian border back into America, crossed the Upper Peninsula to St Ignace and again crossed the Mackinaw Bridge for our overnight stay in the same hotel only this time it was about half the price.  We took the ferry in the evening to Mackinac Island where the only forms of transport are horse drawn carriages, bicycles or by foot.  We dined in a lovely old hotel down by the harbour.  There are a lot of really beautiful houses and buildings on the island.  The mist again came in on us and it was quite heavy at times.  The ferry back to Mackinaw City gave us an excellent view of the bridge we had crossed only a few hours before.  (Approx 200 miles.)
             Leaving Mackinaw City we rode mostly south on Interstate 75 then crossed west to Cadillac and then made our way to May and Len’s “Cabin” somewhere in the back of the back of beyond and a few miles down a gravel road.   Helen and May dismounted to unlock and lower the chain across the entrance while Len and I rode the CVO’s across a field to the cabin.  There is no proper paved driveway into the cabin, only a sandy track which would be impossible to ride on an Electra Glide with all the luggage we carried for our trip,  that was the reason for riding across the fields.  Not the ideal bike for riding off road especially when it didn’t belong to me.  After our evening meal Len filled the deer feeder and then we watched them feed in the garden about 50 yds from us.  The feeder is on a timer and operates twice a day and even before it spins out the nuts, the deer were waiting for their special treat.  This was a short day as we wanted to see and spend some time at the cabin before we rode back to Grand Rapids.  (Approx 150 miles.)
            Our last day on the bike started with riding back across the fields and gravel tracks to paved roads.  This time I felt happier as I could follow the tracks we made the previous day on our way to the cabin.  It wasn’t our usual early start as we had the bikes to pack, the cabin to secure and not a lot of miles to ride.  We took a scenic route back through rural America’s small towns with a stop lunch stop overlooking a beautiful lake.                                                                                                                                 (Approx 130 miles.)
           We still had a few days before returning home and the first one was spent washing and cleaning the CVO Len had very generously loaned me.  This tour of Lake Superior was an unforgettable ride for us and a really big thank you is due to May and Len for everything they did for us. From collecting us at the airport and everything in between to returning us to the airport.  Wonderful people and great friends.  We also got to meet and ride out with some of the guys we had on the Ireland tour in 2005.
           Almost at the end of our ride and with only a few miles to go Len and May almost got side-swiped by a female motorist on her mobile phone.   Len had done an Advanced Riders Course a few years ago as this is a condition of joining the Road Hogs motorcycle group he belongs to and it has probably saved his hide a few times.  This is something all motorcycle riders should consider, not only for their own benefit but for peace of mind for everyone they ride with.

Bike trip to Brittany – May 2013

by Paul Nixey

Do you fancy a trip in company to Brittany this Summer. A small group have booked ferry from Rosslaire to Cherbourg on the 26th May (Oscar Wilde) 15:30. We are travelling 160 miles to a village called Besle where we propose to camp in a private field adjacent to a camp site and on the banks of a canal. We will set up camp here and tour the local region. Besle is roughly half way between Rennes and Nantes, see page 14 HOG touring handbook; it is proposed to visit some of the 4 or 5 harley dealerships as a days rideout, among other venues to be decided.
Return will be on the 2nd of June from Roscoff to Rosslaire (Oscar Wilde) 18:30.
Booking through Irish ferries is very easy and should cost approx. €79 each way bike and rider, camping is free unless you wish to book a caravan in the campsite.

For more details call Nixey on 07762569657 or e-mail: nixey106@sky.com