Belgium and a series of unfortunate events | FEATURE
There’s something special about a scooter rally abroad. Getting to the ferry on time without breaking down, then riding onto the boat amongst a group of other scooters. Up a slippery metal ramp into the darkened hull, then tying the scooters down before heading upstairs to a cabin for an overnight crossing and party with a load of fellow friends. Then repacking the scooter again early the following morning.
The domino effect as a solitary scooter owner – worried his scooter won’t start – prematurely kick-starts their machine on the top deck, quickly followed by a hundred others. Filling lungs with unnecessary noxious fumes for 20 minutes before the ferry doors have even opened. Riding out into the cool fresh morning air and queuing for what seems like forever to show a passport before you can escape and ride on ‘the wrong side’ of the road to your destination.
Last weekend, (as with early September for many years), we headed over to Belgium for a small invite-only rally in the north of the country. We won’t be doing a rally report on it because it’s not open to everybody, even though it’s a fantastic little event with 300 people on almost as many scooters.
Unlike the usual Belgian road trips we do, this one was at a new venue just over 30 miles from Zeebrugge – 150 miles closer to the port than the usual Ardennes destination but that didn’t mean it was quick or easy. In fact, this trip and the weekend itself saw more calamities than most supposedly tougher riding weekends. Our scooter club back up van looked more like an ambulance on Sunday as we transported the walking and limping wounded back to the port.
How can a simple 60-mile round trip (not including riding to and from Hull) take so long and cause so much trouble? Let’s find out.
Here’s a series of just some of the unfortunate events of that great weekend.
Missed the boat
Even before we got to Hull on Thursday, Neil Jones had blown a PX up whilst trying to limp Sarah’s (his wife) scooter home after a seizure. He finally arrived back in the West Midlands via the very slow recovery service – much later than was comfortable. He quickly chucked a spare scooter in his van and set off back to Hull, before the driver had even done the paperwork.
His plan was to collect Sarah and his scooter then drive the 260 miles to Dover with both scooters in the van if he couldn’t travel from Hull. The ferry doors had closed when he got to the port (a novelty in itself on the Zeebrugge boat) but Neil was lucky enough to be able to swap on to the later Rotterdam ferry instead. An extra £100 and 130 miles further to ride on the other side for the privilege but the P&O staff gave him a good discount and were really helpful.
Shot down in flames
Custom T5, Ginger Lacey was shot down in flames after owner, Jamie ran into the back of his mate, Big Ian on Friday morning. Jamie accelerated as Ian stopped, result, Jamie and missus, Julie were sprawled across the road (only a few aches and pains). Ginger Lacey suffered £1000 worth of paint damage on the mudguard, side panel, legshields etc. Hitting Big Ian is like running into the Major Oak.
Pip pip hooray
You can’t help but look around when somebody beeps their horn and Tony Bryant got his fair share of looks on his Lambretta. His horn decided that it would short out and beep whenever his handlebars were in a straight line. It’s funny for a while, in fact he left it for over 200 miles but when they pulled into the Atlantic Wall Museum everybody came out to see if he was ok. A little embarrassing.
He finally took the headlight out of his Series One (the white one above) on Sunday and disconnected the horn. It was then that he heard the previously beeped out sound of a nasty gearbox noise. A quick investigation meant he had to have it recovered home from Hull. After stripping it this week he’s missing a few teeth off his gearbox, lucky escape.
Late on Saturday night/Sunday morning, Nick from Chesterfield smashed his head open whilst falling over in the do. He hit the corner of a table on the way down and ended up with a very nasty cut above his eye and also on his wrist. Blue lighted to hospital, he spent the early hours of Sunday morning having an MRI scan and being pieced back together (well done Andrea for playing nurse and going with him).
His Quasimodo like head and concussion meant he couldn’t think straight, get a helmet on, or ride. He didn’t even know what had happened to him, or if he had stitches on Sunday morning. Nick, his scooter and his pillion were chucked in our van for their own safety.
He came a cropper
We also had Blazing Glory’s Cropper limping around with a badly swollen ankle he picked up during a Saturday night fall downstairs. Cropper and his scooter also ended up in our overloaded van. When he got home a trip to A&E confirmed he’d broken two bones in his ankle and he’s now laid up for six weeks.
As people get older they don’t bounce quite so well…
Cropper’s scooter was ridden home by Matty, after Matty was rescued by York SC in their van after suffering a stator failure on the way to the ferry (although the exhaust dropped off that one as well 30 miles from home).
Because York SC had a van full, our back up van had to go back and collect a stricken York club member. Meaning our van driver, passengers and broken scooters almost missed the ferry home. The lad they picked up had no mobile phone or money on him, didn’t know what our van, or driver looked like and was left alone on the side of a Belgian road until Rachel, our driver turned up. She was just given a rough idea of where he was but the rest was left to chance and she was only a couple of minute’s away from missing the crossing when they got back to Zeebrugge.
Unfortunately, Border Control don’t like these type of illegal immigrants so they were forced to walk/limp on to the ferry and our Rachel was given an advisory about taking passengers illegally.
York SC had a lad with a lovely Golden Special who had a weird crash on the motorway in the rain on Friday. It smashed his headset and handlebars in half but left the scooter (and rider) otherwise unscathed. Lucky escape for man and machine.
Then there was Caroline who missed her ferry on the way out, got put on to another ferry but realised at passport control she’d forgotten her passport. For some strange reason, they let her travel on her driving licence. When she got to Dunkerque on the way home they wouldn’t let her back out of the country, although fortunately somebody at home took a photo of her passport and they let her get home using that and her licence. Albeit she was the last one allowed on the ferry.
Kev Bradbury’s GTS also ended up in our van with a puncture, thanks bizarrely to what looked like an old horseshoe nail. Tyre Weld didn’t work and nobody had a tubeless repair kit with all the bits he needed. He ordered a new tyre in Hull and swapped it on Monday morning so he could ride it home.
Travel iron jump leads
Taff couldn’t start his GTS at the ferry port on the way there, it seemed like the battery had died – so after some head-scratching, he remembered he’d got a live 12v socket under his seat. He stripped the wires off that and used them as a makeshift jump lead to start the scooter from another GTS. Foolishly when he got to the rally he also left his sat-nav on the scooter, switched on… That didn’t help and on Sunday he was one of the last ones to leave the rally. Of course, his scooter was dead.
In typical Scooterboy resourcefulness and bodgery he borrowed an iron, stripped the flex and made jump leads. The only problem was, his battery was so knackered that a scooter wouldn’t jump it so he had to start it from a car (not the best idea). It meant all the way to the UK he had to persuade a friendly car driver to let some daft scooter rider attach an iron flex and naked wires to their car battery. He got a battery from a bike shop on Monday so finally got home about 10 pm.
Talking of GTS problems, we also had Karen from West Coast Scooters with a snapped manifold and exhaust bungeed to the luggage. She’d broken it on the way from Scotland to the ferry but nursed it there with a view of getting it fixed in Belgium. Unfortunately, Mr Piaggio had used stainless manifold nuts and even after trying to Dremel them off they failed to get it sorted. They left the scooter at a friendly DIY store for the weekend, chained to some pallets. They picked it back up on Sunday and rode noisily to the ferry. It took a three van relay to get her back to Scotland… eventually. Whatever happened to decent recovery services?
Thankfully no photos of this one exist. The two Daves – two’s up on a very heavily overloaded GTS (overloaded by the two Dave’s rather than luggage). Pillion Dave was forced to abandon his ride after busting the stitches on a recent stomach operation, not helped by being cramped up on a GTS seat.
For once I was blessed during the weekend. Maybe due partly to the ‘lucky’ seagull splat I received in Zeebrugge? Either way, I suffered nothing more than a hangover and a broken gear cable on this particular trip.
All part of what we do
These minor tales and tribulations may well seem like major traumas in any other walk of life but to a Scooterist it’s all part of another pub tale to be laughed about for years to come. As Cropper nurses two broken bones in his foot and Nick heals his battered head they’ll already be laughing about it. Parts will be on order (not body parts), scooters will be getting fixed and we’ll all be getting ready to do it all again very soon.
No matter what life on the road throws at you, you can’t keep a good Scooterist down for long. Stay safe out there people, it’s like a battlefield.
Photos: Iggy, Shady, Trev, Neil, Kev, Taff, Karen, Talbot, Shaun
Share your own stories
If you have any tales or stories about your own scooter travels, mishaps and adventures we’d love to share them with SLUK readers. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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