A Tale of Two Jackets


How a jacket-buying trip can change your life


    So the weekend’s here, now what?  I take a quick look out of the front window only to find that once again it’s bucketing down.  After a few carefully worded questions I find that Chris is none too keen for a trip on the bike, but wouldn’t mind a ride out in the car, stopping somewhere towards the Lakes for a pub lunch.  Reluctantly, I agree (she’s paying!) and off we go.  On the way to Preston, Chris suggests that we have a look in at the Honda dealers to see if they have any jackets for summer use on the bike.  The afore­mentioned machine was at this time a 1983 VF 750 (the shaft drive one) with over 30,000 of our own miles on the clock and quite a few Continental trips under its tyres.   On arrival at the dealers we were confronted by a very large blue motorcycle partly obstructing our path to the clothing and accessory dept.  I thought the bike was new, but it turned out to be an eighteen month old '86 Aspencade with 3,000 miles on the clock.  Now, I know that all used machines have some sort of story with them and this one was no exception, it went something like this: the previous owner, a company director of about 40, had bought the bike new in ‘86 and never used it in the rain.  After about a year the poor chap was no more, having had a heart attack.  The dealer was then asked to sell the bike on behalf of the estate.  Seems to hold water but what about the half worn rear tyre?, apparently normal for a 1200 ridden in the dry, even including running in.

Up until now my wife had been fairly quiet, but commented that if we were to change our bike in the near future then she would be happy to ride on the back of a machine which had been so obviously designed with a passenger in mind.  At about this point I decided to retreat to a local pub to try to prevent terminal damage to our respective bank balances.

Over a pleasant meal we agreed to go back to the dealers and put down a deposit without even having had a test ride.  The following Friday afternoon I set off by bus to Preston with all my kit in a holdall, to pick up the bike.   I don’t remember too much about the ride home, except that Preston is about 12 miles away and I clocked over 40!  Of the few things that did stick in my mind, I recall the feeling that every­one was looking at me (were my flies undone?) and the feeling of the immense width of the bike, although the Wing proved to be narrower across the panniers than the VF750 was.  When I arrived home, my arms ached a bit, more from the different position of the ‘bars than the weight and I was not very pleased with the way it dealt with white lines and overbanding around road repairs.

The next few months were spent gradually getting to grips with the bike and included joining THE CLUB, enjoying a few rides out, both with other Wingers and on our own.  I must admit that it didn’t take very long to feel at home with the Wing and in those first few months, managed to put on a few more thousand miles.  Our next big adventure was to start planning our holiday in July which we decided was to be a return trip to our favourite area in Austria, the Salzkammergut (the lakes and mountains area around Salzburg).  We find that the planning of the holiday is very much a part of the overall enjoyment and I find that as more and more of the necessary stages are ‘ticked off’, the more I feel like a little lad waiting for Santa.  Eventually, bike serviced and packed, tickets, green card and insurance dealt with, we reached the long awaited day.

At this point I feel I must include a brief comparison of the ways of getting over the water into Mainland Europe, especially for us Northerners.  The obvious choice might at first appear to be Dover to Calais/Ostende/Zeebrugge for the relatively low ferry cost, but there would be costly stops for food, fuel, and possibly bed and breakfast, not forgetting the unsociable journey and difficulty estimating travelling time due to hold-ups for road works.

Another possibility would be Harwich to Hoek van Holland, but this has similar problems.  So once again we opted for the Hull to Rotterdam trip. (Any seasoned campers reading this, disregard the last bit as the Dover crossing wins hands down on cost).

After a steady ride over to Hull, with a stop to visit my mother, we boarded the North Sea Ferries ‘NORSUN’, roped the bike down and wandered off in search of our cabin.   During the evening we had a quick change (of clothes), a quiet drink in one of the lounges and a superb five course dinner.  The following morning after a hearty breakfast (all meals are included in the price) we gathered our things together and made our way to the bike and after the usual short delay, we set off in the direction of Rotterdam, then towards Eindhoven and on into Germany around Aachen.  We had planned to stop in the Mosel area for a few days, so we made our way towards Cologne and along the Rhine autobahn leaving at Koblenz and following the Mosel until we reached Bernkastel, where we found a delightful little Gasthaus on the banks of the river.  We stayed there three nights, which allowed us to wander about on the first evening and the next day and left time for a trip on the bike to Trier (the oldest town in Germany) the following day.  The temperature in Trier was about 850F so after parking the bike we stripped down to shorts for a stroll around the town. When we returned there was a group of people standing around the Wing and it was one of those moments when you are not sure whether to stand with them or admit that you actually own this gargantuan beast.  The group turned out to be Italians and proceeded to watch intently as we put all of our gear on. (Incidentally I think we have got Italians living next door to us, ‘cos when the little lad comes home from school I hear him say ‘Mam, I’m ‘ere’).  Leaving Bernkastel we made our way to the Rhine autobahn and headed towards Mainz and on to Stuttgart. This part of the journey is a little boring unless you stop off at some of the towns, but we were aiming for our next overnight stop somewhere near the Arlberg pass.  This stop was to be a ‘one nighter’, having travelled about 550 miles that day and to break the journey before heading off to Fuschl in the Salzkammergut, not far from Salzburg.  Normally, when we arrive at our destination, we ride slowly through the village from one end of the other, keeping an eye out for ‘Zimmer frei’ (vacancies) signs. We then turn round and pick one that suits us and give it a try, rarely being turned away because they are full and never because we are motorcyclists.  On the odd occasion that they have been full, they have contacted another Gasthaus or Pension to fix us up.   We had five glorious days in this area, managing trips out by bike to the Salzburgring to watch practice for vintage racing and by bus to the lovely city of Salzburg, birthplace of some chap called Mozart. One day we walked over the hills to St Gilgen (about five miles) and had a boat ride across the lake to St Wolfgang for a trip by rack railway up to the top of the Schafherg (sheep mountain).  The views from there were astounding, but as always don’t appear quite the same on the photographs.  Although we have been to this area a few times before, we are always able to find something different to try and are overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the people.  Many people are of the impression that Austria is expensive, this is true if you wish to stay in large hotels in the towns and Jet-Set regions, but not if you stay as we do, in the smaller Pensions and Gasthauses which are immaculate and generally have en-suite facilities. On many occasions we have had our meals with the family who are only too keen to explain what’s going on where and when in their village or in the vicinity. Occasionally, due to our German not being very good, the exchange of information looks like something from “Give us a Clue”, but it all adds to the enjoyment of the holiday.

The next leg of our journey took us further east towards Linz, leaving the autobahn near Melk, where we followed the Danube along what must be its most beautiful part, the Wachau, where the river winds its way between the steep, vine covered hillsides and pretty little villages.  Eventually we decided to stay for a few days in in the unspoilt walled village of Durnstein with its brightly painted church and narrow winding streets.  From this base we had trips out around the region on foot, bus and train, and on our last day we used the Wing to visit Vienna. On the return trip to our little Gasthaus, just chatting about having a nice refreshing shower, and going into the village centre for a meal, the unthinkable happened.  Travelling along the narrow but fairly straight road alongside the river, a silver car sprang out from a line of cars coming in the opposite direction.  The only reaction I had was to use every bit of braking power that the Wing had, to lessen the inevitable impact, which only succeeded in slewing the bike first one way then the other.  I remember the feeling of relief as the silver car glanced past us, only to be replaced by flash of bright orange and a searing pain in my left hand and arm as we ploughed into the side of the car that the other had been overtaking. When everything finally came to rest, I tried to figure out where Chris was and whether or not we were about to be run over, she too was lying in the road, but with her left leg trapped under the pannier and appeared to be trying to push the bike away with her other foot.  I tried to getup to help her, but seemed glued to the road and then suddenly there were people milling around reassuring us and telling us that help would soon be on its way.  After a few minutes an ambulance arrived and went straight to my Wife, probably realising that I was OK from the noise I was making.  After a while I had a jacket laid over my upper body and head and I really thought that I was on my way to the Heavenly region of the GWOC, but no, it was just a precaution to prevent dust being thrown at me by a rescue helicopter which landed on the road beside us.  Eventually we were both on our way to the hospital in Krems, me by ambulance and Chris, by helicopter.   After a few hours being patched up, we were taken by police car to the police station to make statements and then on to our guesthouse.  Our injuries thankfully were not too severe but the Wing was definitely a write-off and meant that we would eventually have to fly home.

The next few days were spent sorting out recovery of the bike to England and organising flights back for us, as well as helping each other through the trauma of what had happened.  The main feeling that we both had was that of anger aimed at the chap who had caused the accident, for spoiling our otherwise excellent holiday and destroying our Wing.  He was subsequently fined and given a short ban, which helped our insurance claim no end.

A few months later we took delivery of a brand new 1200 Aspencade in twilight beige and we have travelled over 36000 miles on it without further incident, including return trips to Austria and even into Czechoslovakia and what was Eastern Germany.

Oh! and by the way we still haven’t bought any jackets for summer use!

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