Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue

Disorganised Date - January to Mid September 2020

By Ren Withnell

Way back, way way back in the Before Times, when the people moved freely and the shops were filled with toilet paper, a plan was hatched. This plan involved the rental of a large property just outside Bushmills, Northern Ireland. This property was to be shared between 4 couples and another chap. They were to make their way there in mid September and enjoy motorcycling antics followed by evenings filled with merriment and jovial conversation.

Then came the Now Times, and along with it a dark and menacing spectre. Covid 19 arrived and took away many plans, replacing them with much confusion and a shortage of toilet roll. Many claimed "Conspiracy!", others cried "I'll be fine!" while some people died. Even today there is still great uncertainty, endless opinions, voices shouting to be heard, all the while the only true statement is "...we don't know..."

I'll keep my own ill-informed opinions about Covid out of this. All I know for sure is I don't know either.

Sharon and I were booked to go to this house share earlier this year. We were due to be there for 4 nights, which seems about right considering we only know 2 of the other attendees. If we all get along then great! If not then it's not an intolerable length of time to put up and shut up. I'm sure it would have been just fine. 

After the strict lockdown of spring, summer brought the lifting of many restrictions. All seemed good and it made sense to start researching the booking of a ferry. Sharon and I considered the Liverpool to Belfast route, Sharon lives but 10 miles from the port making this the obvious choice. Of course things are never that simple.

The crossing from Liverpool to Belfast takes 8 hours. That's quite some time, particularly if the crossing is rough. Sharon's not the best at sea although sea-sickness tablets help greatly. Also Sharon is poor and I am tight. The Liverpool sailing costs £150 return per person and motorcycle. Throw in a cabin for comfort, storage and a nap-nap and you're into your pockets deeply.

On the other hand there's the Cairnryan to Larne crossing. This takes 2 hours and costs £84 return per person and motorcycle. The downside is Cairnryan is 240 miles from Sharon's humble abode. That'll be £25 of juice each. Still cheaper. Throw in a Travelodge each way, another £25 each (£50 for 2 nights, one night going up, one night coming home) and, well, it's still cheaper. This also turns our 4 nights away into 6 nights away. 

A map with Sharon's location near to Liverpool and Cairnryan is way way to the north
As you can see Cairnryan is the OBVIOUS choice!

Much discussion is had. We settle upon the Cairnryan crossing BECAUSE it extends our holiday and because we get to travel more and because it just seems like a more interesting option. Meanwhile the Covid situation has started to get just a little worse once again. We book, with a degree of trepidation.

With each passing day the news brings more Covid infections and more restrictions. We watch nervously. Should we cancel? Will we get our money back? We want to go and we need a break, but we don't want to be Covidiots. Will we even be allowed to go? This rolls on and on with each minute, and with each minute departure time gets closer.

With less than a week to go the group is still undecided. We could, but should we? Then finally with Bolton becoming the UK's Covid hotspot the trigger is finally pulled. The chap who's organising this agrees to see if we can move the house share back one year and it is best all around if we don't go. In fact it would be illegal.

Sharon and I ponder. We, well, no. But. We, maybe, perhaps, could take the tent? Will we get the money back on the ferry, or at least a credit? What about the Travelodge? Should we just stay home? I'm not allowed into other households save for Sharon's as she's my "Bubble", but we can legally go away together. But, well, yeah, camping, sharing toilets. Will they be open? 

motorcycles and tents in the wind and the rain
4 nights in a cold and wet tent - just what we need! If the campsites are open.

I spend an age looking at campsites online. Some are open but pre-booking only. Others the toilets are closed so caravans and campervans only. Some don't even answer the phone while others seem unsure about any kind of rules or even if they are open. On Saturday night, the Saturday before the Tuesday we are due to depart, Sharon and I are more confused than we were after watching a Donald Trump interview.

Sharon randomly hops onto After a little looking the queen of the search has found a chalet on the outskirts of Belfast. Price - do-able, self-contained - check, available - check. This, well, yeah, this is better.

A bed and settee in a small room that forms the chalet
A real bed! This might not be so bad after all.

We could be as Covid secure as we would be at home because in the chalet we'd have our own room, toilet, shower and kitchenette. It will be much nicer if the rain comes to have somewhere warm and dry at the end of the day. The bikes can be outside the chalet and it looks acceptably secure. There are shops within walking distance for supplies. Oh lordy, out comes the credit card.


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Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue The lead-up to this journey seems to have been a bewildered shambles. So how did The Dynamic Muppets manage to rescue their trip from the tangled mess of 2020?
It's A Bumpy Lumpy Ride Sharon's life is never simple. While getting ready for maybe, possibly, perhaps going to Northern Ireland she takes a moment to explain why she's been so quiet on here.
An Easy Ride To Carlisle It's an easy, lazy and relaxed start to this holiday with a handful of miles to cover and the weather behaving itself for once.
Space Sharon's luggage situation has improved but it's going to take a while for her to unwind, chill out and settle into today's journey. Aaaaaaand relax.
A Ferry And Hint Of Northern Ireland Ren is doing what Ren does best - flapping.
A Dip Into Irish Waters Today's lesson - don't place yourself behind angry small mythical critters.
Causeway And Coast Getting into The Giant's Causeway poses a challenge for a miser like Ren, can he avoid his wallet seeing the light of day? The Causeway Coastal Route and Torr Head Scenic Route may ease the shock for him.
Giants And Hobbits Sharon enjoys a rather wonderful day exploring more of the Causeway Coastal Route. Languishing in luxury on the back of Ren's bike while he does all the hard work. Sort of.
Ards Peninsula, Wonderfully Modest Today it's the turn of Ards Peninsula to be explored. Throw in the regular dose of disorganised nonsense and some fair weather, it might be a good day!
A Bit Of Irish History A history lesson and tomfoolery by The Queen Of Rain. Thing is, it's not raining. Something is wrong here, very wrong.
Lough Neagh And Money The Dynamic Muppets circumnavigate the largest lake in the British Isles. Is this the sort of place where a prudent miser like Ren would fit in?
Reflections Another watery day in Northern Ireland and still no rain on the horizon. Sharon contemplates the many and varied lives we get to live.
Ferry, Friends And Mostly Scotland In a remarkable twist Ren is not flapping! Nor is he ready to go home. But alas and alack 'tis time for this all-too-brief inspection of Northern Ireland to end. Take comfort in Scotland Ren.
North Pennines And Epilogue It's the end of the journey for the dynamic muppets yet there's still time for a little detour, or two. What did Ren make of Northern Ireland?

Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
I noticed the lump of four by two under the bed?? Was this put there by your good self for extra support for the forthcoming 'bedroom gymnastics'.

Just wondering like.

24/09/2020 10:29:43 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I can't wait for episode two, is it on I player so I can cheat?
And no more talk of bed sticks, please. There's no decorum on here anymore.

24/09/2020 10:51:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bedroom Gymnastics? I'm 48 and while not entirely "past it" I'd say less gymnastics more physiotherapy these days. It was already there when we arrived, I presume it's there to support those with a "fuller figure".
24/09/2020 10:52:45 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You could get an early preview Upt' but that's a subscription service. It's only £399 per month which we consider to be "excellent value".
24/09/2020 10:53:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I would like to postulate a serious question for once.

I write these trips up primarily for my own pleasure, oddly enough. I find it helps me cement the memories and I enjoy re-running the trip through my mind. As such I will continue to add them to the blog. BUT. From a "hits" and "comments" perspective they prove to be far less popular than bike reviews, repair antics and the like.

This is understandable. Most people go on to Google to search for information and help with problems they have. It would be "weird" to Google "motorcycle trip to Northern Ireland by 2 random strangers who tend to go easy and drink a lot of tea". Also with regards to comments most folks will have an opinion on motorcycle X and what's the best way to fix a cam chain. It's hard to comment an opinion of my ride to such and such a campsite.

I'd like to ask though - do you enjoy reading about my trips, our trips and other rider's trips?
24/09/2020 11:01:59 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
Ren and Sharon,

YES, definitely, I very much enjoy reading your and other folk's accounts of trips, long or short. They reinforce the urge to travel and give tips about places, campsites and the best scenery.

I'd like to read more from courageous bikers who venture abroad on 125s, C90s or velocipedes even smaller. Anyone out there ridden to Vladivostok on a Velosolex?

24/09/2020 11:26:02 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I like them too, even if only to thank my lucky stars I'm not riding along with you......
24/09/2020 12:26:33 UTC
Bogger said :-
I've been to the Czech republic on the C90. If you fancy a read I could post that up here. If I can find it. It's up to MR Ed at the end of the day.

Ren ref the write ups of trips. I also do it so I can remember what happened, where and when. When I read the trip reports back, there's many a time I get one of those Ahh, I remember that now moments.

Also, hopefully, others may appreciate it. There are quite a few foreign trips that I didn't write up and now wish I had. Corsica a couple of years ago on the YBR 125 was one such trip. I started it but never finished.

24/09/2020 12:41:28 UTC
Bogger said :-
Sorry forgot to add. I enjoy the trip/holiday reports as much, if not more, than the techi stuff.

24/09/2020 12:43:10 UTC
Steve S. said :-
I enjoy them too. Nice to know it’s not just me who suffers problems on holiday’s . I prefer the write ups of your journeys, than bike problems.
24/09/2020 12:47:27 UTC
Marv said :-
Definitely enjoy reading about the trips, keep them coming!

The site is called Bikes and Travels, afterall...

I was supposed to spend a couple of weeks touring ROI and Norn Iron on my CB500x in early September. Alas I've delayed it until next year. I did look at the weather for the two weeks I was supposed to be there and for the most part it was pissing it down, haha.

Lets see if I get nice sunshine in 2021! :o)
24/09/2020 13:55:05 UTC
ROD said :-
I read all of the bike trips on here. I also go into the archives and read the trips a second time.

I get frustrated when there are long periods between installments so enjoy going back.
I went back to the Dutch trip on 125s recently.
24/09/2020 18:06:26 UTC
Jim said :-
For me, the travels are the best bit, although I did originally pitch up here by googling for technical advice about my CBF125. It’s good to read about the places you’ve been, but it’s even better to read along with the story of simple northern folk and their daily doings, so to speak. And if I may be serious for a moment, the fact that you and Sharon are so ready to write open, warts and all accounts of your travels makes it feel like checking in on old friends. Keep up the travelogues!


24/09/2020 23:09:33 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Mark Noel - Vladivostok on a Velosolex? Now that would be an epic journey, are you volunteering? I could sponsor you a Bikes And Travels sticker?

Ian Soady - I'm still not sure if I'm insulted or not. I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to spend a cold, wet week in a tent with Sharon an I. It'll be FUN!! I do understand and remember, we do these terrible things so you don't have to.

Bogger - if you've got the reports and the pix we can add 'em to the site. Oft times Sharon and I will be like " what's that place called where we stopped..." and then we refer to the BAT records. What I find scary is going way back (been going 17 years this blog) and seeing what sort of a person I was once.

Steve S. Problems? Moi?! I have no problems, just the odd flap, maybe a bit of panic, some mechanical issues, the odd wrong turn, but no problems. Well OK. Yes. Problems. I'm glad my misfortune cheers you and Ian Soady up so much.

Marv - bummer on missing out on the trip. There's been several other adventures I've been meaning to undertake and this blasted Covid has spoiled them. I suppose all we can do is suck it up for now.

ROD - I'd love to do more trips and give you more regular content for your perusal. I am trying to figure out a way of making a living doing just that but there are 2 problems. 1 - I haven't worked it out and 2 - I'm naturally lazy. So I suppose all you can do is trawl the archives.

Jim - "simple northern folk"!! I'll have you know I'm a closet genius with an IQ of at least 54 but I don't like to boast. Having been in a relationship with Sharon for so long I can assure you she's bloody complicated too. No - I take your point thank you.

Thank you folks. Being a delicate soil, no, soul, it is reassuring to hear that our efforts aren't wasted. I'd still write them up even if they weren't read though because as I said I enjoy doing it. If you'd like Sharon and I to do many more adventures please send your wages/pensions/share dividends/inheritances to account number 334-443...
25/09/2020 09:04:22 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Ed and M.M.
The trip reviews in my humble opinion are good reads but I appreciate probably only to a small audience, which is a shame. I too like others think that being able to refer back to past reviews, mine and others, are a great reminder of good times and where else are you going to find that piece of information that you or someone else requires at a later date. You know, that good road, hotel, God awful campsite etc.
Plus our Ed and M.M. You are comparatively young, well, ish; what you can recall easily now will be not quite so in 10,15,20 years time, God willing.
Plus, with this particular one, I've never been to Ireland, North or South, so that'll be an eye opener.
Now where did I put my pants........
25/09/2020 09:24:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
A small audience you say Upt'? Are you trying to tell me my dreams of being an international celebrity adventurer are, are... are, oh I can't bear it, are... foolish? Does this mean I have to keep on working? All I need is 10 people to subscribe to the early updates for a measly £399 a month. Why, WHY is this world so cruel? (Please note I have running water, food in the house I own, 2 motorcycles and a car, money in the bank. I live in a country with good healthcare, emergency services, voting and limited guns.)
26/09/2020 09:19:36 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Yes with just a few more guns life would be great, I agree whole heartedly. Nothing serious you understand maybe a 45 revolver for me and 9 mm semi automatic H and K for Er'Indoors, they would look really nice next to the 12 bores.
26/09/2020 10:17:54 UTC
Ross said :-
#Me Too! I enjoy reading the trip reports the most too, they remind me of some of the trips I used to make in my younger days and fantasise about the trips I 'could' make in the future...but almost certainly wont because of other commitments/lack of time/inclination/...! The reviews are good too because of the relaxed open style that they are written in ( I even bought a pair of boots based partly on one B&T review!) and it was a review that was mentioned on a forum I used to follow that first drew me here. I suppose the bottom line from my point of view is, keep up the good work...but I doubt you'll make your fortune from this site as it's not FAST and IN YA FACE enough for most people!
26/09/2020 10:34:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Maybe, right folks, maybe if I throw in some scantily clad ladies carrying firearms draped over custom built 4.6 litre V8 motorcycles I'd be able to retire? Of course with me being so, erm, prudent it would be more like middle aged blokes dressed in oily t-shirts armed with water pistols farting next to a crusty old CX500. I'm doomed aren't I.

Upt' are you SURE you wish to arm Er'Indoors? It's one thing to get a clip around the ear with a frying pan when you've upset her (again) but another thing entirely to be facing 3 rounds per second of instant lead poisoning from her.
26/09/2020 13:16:55 UTC
Shepherd said :-
A bit late to the party with my comment, but I too enjoy your writing / musings and general ramblings on. It's nice to know you northern whippet walkers have the same trials and tribulations that us 'Sarfenders' do - keep it up!
26/09/2020 13:27:28 UTC
said :-
Not sure where this last bit ended up ...

The explanations regarding bike repairs are great. The cbf125 fork oil change is a great example of explaining things for simpletons like me who don't like the YouTube pros acting amateur.
I also landed here after a Google search for my cbf125/cb125f, but can't remember the reason..

26/09/2020 13:29:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I say Sharon darling, one of those common folks from south of the ship canal is calling us "whippet walkers"! I think that's jolly unsporting. Shall I send the butler to give him a damn good thrashing? I must say though, I am impressed as the ruffian can actually read and appears to have good taste in literature.

Cheers Shepherd. Whereabouts from the land of "daaaan saaaaaf" are you?
26/09/2020 21:47:28 UTC
Borsuk said :-
The travel stories are my favourite bits. Keep them coming.
27/09/2020 01:15:28 UTC
Borsuk said :-
The travel stories are my favourite bits. Keep them coming.
27/09/2020 01:15:29 UTC
Womble said :-
Yes keep up the good work, enjoy your travel ramblings.
27/09/2020 14:32:04 UTC
SAM said :-
Keep 'em coming Ren!
27/09/2020 20:50:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I hope you lot are being honest, otherwise I'm afraid to say there's more coming. Thanks folks.
28/09/2020 09:20:32 UTC
Shepherd said :-
A 'ruffian' is quite a compliment for me - much appreciated:-)
I'm about halfway between the quaint little market town of Basildon, and the tranquil sounds of waves gently caressing the shoreline of Southend. It's a shame it's the container ships and oil tankers that cause aforementioned waves.
Anyone for some cockles?

28/09/2020 22:10:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I just have images flashing through my head of "cock-en-ee" chimney sweeps dancing across streets filled with waifs. I will say that's one area I've never been to, the closest being The M25 and Gravesend. Prey tell, my good ruffian, is there anything there that would be of interest to a highly educated (4 GCSEs) gentleman from the North? I like vast mountains, grand vistas, endless skies and cheap cafes.
29/09/2020 08:52:55 UTC
nab301 said :-
Like many I found my way here by googling bike reviews, in this case CBF250 .. I do read the travel posts too. My main problem is I always seem to miss posts , not seeing them until someone adds to a topic and it pops up again near the front page weeks or months later, especially as I don't view them every day. I know this is a blog but is there any way to search for posts between dates for example ? . Like you might do on a forum platform.
Hopefully you'll do another Ireland / N/Iron trip when we're not faced with travel restrictions , in a normal year I tend to spend weekends travelling north and south in Ireland and in recent years I used to participate in the Irish photo rally which brought me all over the country usually on roads I never knew existed!
30/09/2020 17:15:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
There is, up at the top of the page, a "Nav Menu" button. In there is "Search This Site". On that page I'd recommend you try the Google Search as Google is far far better at searches then I am. There is my own code which is a basic string search. You may find what you're looking for there.

I must say though, I thought you'd be on here at least 10 times a day. Mucho disappointed. Ner.

With regards Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - yes I hope to return. This all being subject not only to Covid but also Brexit. Heck, the way things are going you might not even have access to Bikes And Travels the blog soon let alone I'll be permitted into Europe...
30/09/2020 17:46:30 UTC
Ross said :-
Shepherd said "I'm about halfway between the quaint little market town of Basildon, and the tranquil sounds of waves gently caressing the shoreline of Southend."

Oi, oi, Shepherd from a former Essex boy and now man of Kent! I've still got family in the South Woodham Ferrers area so have experienced the quaint market town of Basildon! Are the boffins and the army still making loud bangs out on Shoeburyness?
01/10/2020 09:19:25 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote "There is, up at the top of the page, a "Nav Menu" button. In there is "Search This Site"
Thanks Ren , I do use both search buttons but can't always find the old thread that I want to add an updated comment to... As for checking in every day , In recent years work seems to have become nearly all online based , although i do still have to turn up to my work place... I do like to spend a few hours a day without looking at a monitor and maybe one day per weekend totally monitor free! Unless like this week I have a few days "annual leave".
As for Brexit , I can only agree with you.
01/10/2020 12:29:48 UTC
said :-
Ren, if you wanted a long pier,then I could possibly help, but the only mountains round here are made of debt. The nearest vista is somewhere north of Ipswich, unless you count looking past the tankers across to Sheerness docks? Cheap cafes-a-plenty though.
You'd only get your GCSEs nicked if you brought them with you should you brave a visit, so it's probably best you kept quiet about them. No one likes a show off anyway.
To be fair, there are some nice roads to ride along if you travel out a little bit, and avoid the potholes. Finchingfield seems to be the meeting place for a lot of bikers and further north of the county, around Colchester can be pretty good for a bimble. Trouble is, it's so busy, it's hard to relax and enjoy the ride. The furthest 'North' I go is to Silverstone for the F1, hardly flat cap country. Even so, the difference in traffic volume and courtesy is noticeable.
01/10/2020 22:55:30 UTC
said :-
A man of Kent, or a Kentish man? Never could remember the difference.
I'm just down from the Turnpike, which I'm sure you'll be aware of. I went through Woodham today, for a ride to Burnham in the sunshine. South Woodham Ferrers still seems to be quite a self contained town, and with the water around a lot of it, I can't see it getting too much bigger.
The Shoebury bang boys have turned it in for a while now, but you still have the restricted area that throws up the odd surprise now and then. Even the Garrison is a shiny new housing area.
In spite of my comments above, I still wouldn't want to live anywhere else - better the devil you know!
01/10/2020 23:05:48 UTC
Shepherd said :-
Oops. Forgot to add my name. That'll teach me from crawling out from my rock
01/10/2020 23:07:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You're not really selling the Southern Experience to me Shepherd. I'm not feeling "freedom of the open road" and "majestic mountains" in your words. I think I'll add it to the "if I'm in the area" list rather than making a special effort.

You should venture north. Here in the North West I can offer a range of options. Some of the most run down back-to-back terraces to remind you of "the good old days"? Maybe you'd prefer the hills and countryside lanes of The Trough Of Bowland instead. Half abandoned industrial estates with roads that would challenge a Dakar rider? Or a calm saunter through the broad fields and mansions of Cheshire?

If you feel the urge to visit I would strongly advise you get a translator and local guide. It's very easy to make a social faux pas here with our strange and peculiar customs. As like as not you'd call a hand sized round piece of bread a "roll" which could lead to an argument. It's a "barm" by the way. For a very reasonable price (£500 and 20 boxes of Aldi tea) I'd be happy to show you around.
02/10/2020 09:24:22 UTC

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