Monday, February 27, 2012

Ocaña: a Race to the Cheese

Not really a race at all, but a very pleasant ride to Ocaña last Saturday morning. It was also my first time organizing a group ride (even though the word "group" has more letters in it than riders on the trip).
Since one of the riders who ended up not being able to go has a 125cc scooter I decided to take the old route I used to take on my 125cc and avoid highways all the way.
At JoseAngel's suggestion (who also couldn't make it but wanted to see us off anyway) we met in front of his apartment, a convenient location to get out of town.
Once the four of us (plus JA) were there, Oscar wondered who would be the alpha male and lead the group, so being the route maker, I took the lead even though my Royal Enfield Bullet has only 28 hp. Having Oscar behind on his BMW 1150 and Chulo on his amazingly orange Kawasaki was rather amusing. Luckily Luigi's Suzuki Marauder 250cc was in the same league as mine and Oscar and Chulo are patient and thoughtful companions on the road.
We actually made rather good time getting to our first stop: Aranjuez, where we had a cup of coffee outside. Across the street from the café I spotted a restored Vespa with a sidecar, beautifully kept up. The plates were from Seville and showed it to be at least 12 years old if not more. Love the color combination and the egg shaped sidecar. I'm trying to imagine the drive up from Seville on that.
We then went on to Ocaña, and after a ride in circles for a bit got our way to the Plaza Mayor. I parked the Balita Roja among the rest and soon had an admirer of classic bikes asking about it, its origins, compliments galore.
The Plaza Mayor of Ocaña is one of the 3 or 4 main plazas in Spain. In fairly sensible style but large enough for, o, say the Spanish Inquisition to host a little soiree. There were some tables out in the sun and we sat down for the traditional red vermouth on ice, twist of lemon. The waiter then brought out a large plate of sandwiches as the tapa, which didn't last long, suddenly followed by another plate, this time of slices of bright yellow Spanish tortilla de patata, surely made with local fresh eggs, on slices of nice baguette style bread. No picture of them since they flew off the plate before I could fish out my iPhone and say "cheese".
Speaking of cheese, I then called a cheese factory in town I had read about online and an old man answered and said we were welcome to come and buy some cheese. As it was getting late (almost 2:00 pm) and Oscar and Luigi had to get started back by the motorway; but Chulo wanted to get some cheese with me. We found the factory for "QUESOS ROMERO" on the edge of town. Chulo thought it was too late and already closed. But I rang the bell and after a bit an old man cam to the door, led us through a gorgeous Toledo-style courtyard and into a small cheese shop at the far side. He flipped on the lights, donned his apron and got us a huge wheel of sheep's milk cheese (a very sharp pungent cheese but not too hard, conserved in olive oil). We split it 50-50 and the old man managed to cut it exactly into two down to the cent.

Back outside Chulo and I bid farewell and I took off for the barbecue in Morata. This was the stretch of off-the-beaten-track roads I had never been on before and was looking forward to. From Ocaña to Noblejas, a fairly straightforward run, but there I couldn't find the way across the Tajo River to La Aldehuela, so I kept going to the next town, which did have a turnoff and bridge across and back into the Comunidad de Madrid.
Not a car in sight. A smoothly undulating ribbon of road curving through the Spanish countryside, vistas of olive trees and dry riverbeds and clusters of Mediterranean pines. The sun was high, the day bright and dry and warm, my Bullet humming and purring through this type of land as if it had been designed for it from the start.
It had been a long time since my last ride alone, and I recalled Angel from Andalus Choppers in Seville saying that there are rides where it's even better solo than accompanied. Sometimes this is true, and that was one of those times (although I really want others to see the route too).
The route took me to the old medieval Colmenar de Oreja, its massive stone church and red-tiled rooftops visible from amidst the olive fields, and out towards Chinchón. I took the turnoff for to Belmonte de Tajo and then toward Valdelaguna to avoid the traffic that inevitable comes up on the road between Chinchón and Morata. The Valdelaguna road is used only by locals, it is narrow and twists its way along, the pavement irregular and potholes abundant, but still the Royal Enfield seemed to recognize it, perhaps as being like an Indian road.

At the barbecue I arrived just in time for cheese (to which I added my recent acquisition from Ocaña), chorizos on the bbq, and a variety of ecological wines, a light little one from France brought by Richard and Paulien from Holland, a bottle of Fabio's red from his Vinos Ambiz, and a bottle of his orange wine, which is a real curiosity and fairly tasty to boot.
The bbq progressed with secret ibérico, slices of well marbled pork from a type of Iberian pigs, basmati rice, and a gorgeous salad.
The meal was wonderful, the company entertaining, the wine interesting. Coffee served with further conversation and the kids playing together in the courtyard.
So I 'd rate my first attempt at organizing a motorcycle ride a 10 for me, maybe a 6 for the others, who missed the best parts: the cheese factory, the roads through the olive fields, the barbecue.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Original or a rebuild?

The 60-year-old rider of this beauty said the bike had been his father's, and must be from the mid 1950s or so. We're having a small debate on what its origins really are. Any clues?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Classically, at the Cruz Verde (Madrid)

For better or worse, this little grouping of restaurants at the Cruz Verde mountain pass about 40 miles NW of Madrid is THE fashion spot for motorcycle enthusiasts and has been for decades. The roads leading to it from all 4 directions are full of curves and hills and breathtaking views.
So the Intrepid 3 (Pedro, Juan Manual and I) decided to meet up with the 4th (Javier) for a coke on a bright sunny and warm (14ºC) winter day.
The ride up took us alongside the Casa de Campo, Madrid's enormous park beyond the Royal Palace). into the scrub oak estates with their old stone walls and up past El Escorial, the "monastery" built by Felipe II way back in 1584.
Upward and onward, with almost no traffic--unheard of, actually, since so many (wealthy) people have weekend houses up there.
When we got to the Cruz Verde, the parking lot was packed with every size, brand, color and model of motorcycle possible. Except for Royal Enfields (until then).
We had a coke (ok, Juan Manuel had a beer, but just one) and met up with Javier. People were admiring the old classic Enfields (my Electra looks so modern compared to theirs!). Meanwhile, my eyes wandered to a few BMWs that were coming in. A multi-colored 650GS (or was it a newer one, one of those 850s? Pedro, help ID this please!).
Then a brand new r1600RT came gliding in, ridden by a 6-foot-four-inch guy who probably swings elephants around by the tail for fun.
We then headed back home but my helmet strap kept coming undone (I hadn't put in the clasp correctly) and I fell behind and missed the turn they had taken, so I made my own way back home along a lovely route through Colmenarejo and over the Valmayor Dam.
Back by 2:00 sharp for lunch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Perfect "Second Bike"

This was parked on the corner near the office. I think it's even nicer than the F650GS, and I could see Javi up on the pillion.

Royal Enfield Argentina: WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Royal Enfield Argentina: WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!: Hammarhead Industries is growing fast. To date, they’ve sold five Jack Pines and a couple of Woodsmen, and they have a firm order for the U...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday's Ride to Chinchón and Aranjuez: love at first sight?

It was just a few days before Valentine's day, so it was bound to happen. Cupid's arrow pierced my well-chilled heart (it was about -1ºC out) when I saw this BMW F600GS. I surreptitiously took a few pics, trying not to look like a bike thief.
Later, by chance (I swear it was pure chance) I happened to park right behind Javivi when we stopped in Aranjuez. He took pics of my Balita Roja and I confessed I had already taken shots of his. When he suggested I got on and sit in the seat, I jumped at the chance.
Ahhhhhhhhh mmmmm ahhhhh! There was a lovely soft floating suspension. My god, suspension! This is something new and totally alien to me and my Balita. Imagine how it must feel to ride one!

I met lots of new people (Joe from Toronto, Mafi from Madrid, Javivi from Morata) and got to talk to old friends from other outings (Paco, Rbaldron, JuanRevi, JuanjoMago, etc) on this ride with folks. The comeraderie was outstanding and the ride a real pleasure, even if Paco had to ride sweep with me on his Honda 250cc because the Balita Roja doesn't do fast.
The opinion was unanimous: that F600GS fits me to a tee.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Day at the Races

Frankly, the idea of going to a motorcycle racetrack was never very high on my Weekend To-Do list before. But when Ogrix offered me to go with him and his sister to see an old biking buddy of his, I knew there wouldn't be any better occasion than this. So off we went, he and Maribel on his BMW R100 and me on my RE Bullet.

As soon as we got there, I could hear the motorbikes whizzing by. Fast. Really really fast. So fast that, as they whizz by, you're left waiting a beat for the inevitable sound of a big crash. My hair stood on end.
Luckily there were no crashes or any other trouble. The "kids" on the track were amateurs out for a day of fun. Lots of milling about in the boxes, the amount of testosterone in the air only exceeded by the amount of adrenaline in their bloodstreams.
It was all in all very exciting, an experience I never thought I'd enjoy, and now I'm looking forward to seeing a real race.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Time To Ride: Jaisalmer

A Time To Ride: Jaisalmer: Rode into Jaisalmer and checking into our hotel in the fort area.

Speaking of cruisers

I see this Honda Shadow American Edition parked by a cafe every Tuesday and Thursday and it ALWAYS makes me grin. I'm dying to hear it start up and drive off, so if you're the owner and you see this... hint, hint.

Do they even make these anymore?

Thunderbird Twinspark 500

This TBTS 500 is not exactly  what I'm looking for in a Royal Enfield, frankly. It looks too much like a new Triumph with lots of faux styling. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Matter of Size

 Size DOESN'T matter. "El tamaño no importa" as they say here. We're all enlightened here and it is the 21st century, right.
But would ya look at the size of the one that guy has. A BMW R1200LT with 136000 km on the dial. My little Balita's butt looks like a cat toy next to it!

I wonder what it's like to ride around on one of those...comfortable, I'm sure.

A Shoutout To India

I want to make a big shout-out to my blogger friend Yogesh in India, whose reflections, discussions and perspectives I've been following for a while now.
Yogesh rides a Pulsar, not a Bullet. But I'm adding him to the Honorary Bulleteers Society because he's a sensible and funny guy.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Royal Enfield group on Flickr

There's a great group in Flickr called "Royal Enfield." It has more than 2300 photos of RE Bullet-related pics from all over the world, and lots from contributors in India (my personal favorites).

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Cabernet Franc

Far too cold (-6ºC) and windy (gusts of ups to 80 kph). I had to console myself with a glass of 2006 Cabernet Franc at Entrevinos on Calle de Ferraz, in Madrid, on Saturday before lunch, with Javi and Raquel. From the knowing hands of Aljibes, a winery in Albacete. of all places. A lovely bouquet of grapes, currents, plum, and a bit of spice (sage?). No hint of disagreeable petrochemicals you can sometimes get in that first whiff with lesser wines. Lovely transparent garnet color, too. Served with a tapa of a strip of semi-cured Manchego cheese on a thin slice of crusty bread, a drizzle of magnificent green extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme on top.

Winter sucks sometimes, but then you have to figure out how to get over it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Frozen Red Bullet

I've finally bitten the bullet, as it were, and have rented a parking place in a garage near home. It's not a big space, mind, you, but then again, my Bullet isn't all that big a motorcycle and my old Volkswagen Golf fits into the space as well. Javi's Vespa, unfortunately, still has to sleep outside but is remarkably robust.
This was all sparked by finding my Bullet's battery dead the other day, probably due to the cold. I of course was clueless and called the shop and called the AAA towtruck, who came and jump started it in a flash.
Today the temperature was -4ºC in Madrid, clear skies but a Siberian blast of wind pushing into the Iberian peninsula. I debated taking the bus into work.
But nah, life's more fun riding the Bull!