Chapter One JDI!

Two guys from the UK, a 40-year-old, Dave and a 56-year- old, that’s me, Ricci, hired two large motorbikes and rode around Southern California for a few days. Here’s our story.

Did the trip pan out exactly the way that we had both expected? Er, No! I think we sleep walked into it a bit and we certainly gained some insight into how to crack on and dig deep when you’re up a mountain in freezing conditions! We had some good fun and I can honestly say that we did really enjoy ourselves; four weeks later, I’m still thinking back to the trip – the highlights and the more challenging elements.

So, if you’ve never hired a bike to take off for a few days or were thinking about cruising around SOCAL in the future, or are just a bit inquisitive about how a couple of somewhat intelligent guys threw caution to the wind and survived, then stick around!

First things first. I’m not a blogger or a writer. I can and do write music, instrumental music actually, but have never been able to write lyrics. A friend called Debbie (https://twitter.com/Debbiekirlew) is a professional writer and blogger. Her articles are really well constructed and provocative. Don’t expect this from me! It’s not that I CBA, I just don’t have that talent.

Anyway, our story started some months ago in 2015 when Dave and I found ourselves just talking about possibly hiring a couple of bikes in California after the annual music show in Anaheim.

Ricci at NAMMCalled the NAMM show, it’s now in its 116th year and takes place in the Convention Center over the road from the original Disneyland park. It’s the trade show for anyone involved in the manufacture, distribution and retailing of musical instruments. From penny whistles to recording studios – you can see it all here.

Another of its unique qualities is that it takes place in Southern California and that just happens to be the home of many a famous rock star, so, expect to see some famous faces walking up and down the aisles or conducting signing sessions on manufacturers’ stands.

I’ve been attending this show since 1989. They should really give me a badge or something! The first couple of times, I did squeeze a visit, literally over the road to Disneyland, but ever since those first few trips, on Sunday night, after the show finishes, I have simply got back on the plane and returned home to my wife and family. Nothing wrong with that, I can hear you say, but I’ve had a yearning or an itch that needs scratching!

Dave and I both ride Harleys in the UK: that’s Skipton in Yorkshire and Datchet in Berkshire respectively. For those of you in the know, nuff said! Harley riders expect their bikes to make a lot of noise and to garner admiring glances but they’re not built for breakneck speed. Well that will be fine as we’re just going to be cruising around California and what’s more, everyone rides Harleys in CA!

So we both started researching online. I had come across a company called EagleRider, http://www.eaglerider.com that talked the talk – they offer motorcycle rental, guided tours or self ride – these guys had a fantastic website, whether you wanted to ride across America or just had 24 hours to hire a bike, it would be no problem. They also had a massive range of Harleys, Indians (check them out, they are works of art) as well as other European bikes.

I raised the topic with my wife Jo. She’s made it plain over the years that she has no wish to ever sit on the back of a bike. She was cool about me extending my trip as long as I was careful. Of course, this was just going to be a little jaunt up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), over to Santa Barbara via Santa Maria and back, ‘taking it easy,’ as the Eagles song goes.

One early evening in December, around 6 pm, which would be 10am Pacific standard time, (UK is eight hours ahead of California) Dave and I put a call into EagleRider. We had a few questions about whether the route we were thinking of taking was suitable in January and needed to make that first step into getting something booked.

The route we were thinking of taking would take us from the EagleRider offices near LAX airport onto the PCH, up to Oxnard, onto Santa Barbara and continuing to Santa Maria across to Ojai and back down Eaglerider tripto EagleRider, three days and two nights, nice and easy (map courtesy of EagleRider).

The guy on the other end of the phone, Duncan, sounded really cool and level headed. Sure, nothing was a problem, oh; don’t forget to bring your wet riding kit as we’re expecting El Niño this year! El Niño is a weather phenomenon that heats up the Pacific by a few degrees and causes storms and bad weather across California. I think it happens every eight to ten years and we were going to be in for it in January 2016.

Dave seemed to think that a bit of rain was ‘no problem’ so encouraged by his gung-ho attitude, I also agreed that rain was fine, hey, we’re from England, the home of rain!

Just a bit about Dave. He’s northern or, more specifically, a Yorkshireman, from Skipton. I like his rather matter of fact way of thinking– he doesn’t do BS. He had been riding bikes for years so I was confident that he knew what he was talking about. Just as well I suppose as there was going to be a particular moment of reckoning where we were both going to have to prove that we knew what we are doing!

I had been through the ROSPA training course with an expert tutor, called Graham Knight. This system is based on the system of motorcycle control, which is detailed in Motorcycle Roadcraft – The Police Rider’s Handbook. Since my training and my subsequent test, where I had received a gold pass, (boom!) I still hear Graham’s calming voice and wise words in my ear, giving me advice about positioning the bike, making progress, staying in a protective bubble and the best line of all, ‘take the lane of least resistance!’ Little did I know his advice was to come in handy!

Duncan, from EagleRider, sent us a quote over for the trip. Bike hire; a couple of Harley Davidson Road Kings. These are big iconic Harleys with saddlebags and windscreens that would gobble up those miles and make us fit in perfectly!

Then Dave dropped his bombshell. Er, Ricci, Dave said in his laconic Yorkshire accent. ‘I’m thinking of hiring a Triumph Explorer on this trip’ What? Dave! We’re going to the US of A, home of the Harley! We were in danger of looking decidedly out of place! Amazing though these bikes are, can we really be seen riding anything else in Southern California?!

I think I nearly convinced him out of it until he told me that EagleRider also had BMW R1200GS bikes for hire. Now I recognise that most of you reading this will have no idea what a R1200GS actually is.

Do you remember the ‘Long Way Round’ challenge, where Ewan McGregor and his mate, Charley Boorman, rode a couple of bikes through 12 countries in just 115 days? Some of these countries were pretty much inaccessible to four-wheel drive vehicles let alone a motorbike, but they somehow made it! They did it on these bikes and certainly proved their worth.

This had spawned a whole new genre of motorbike, the traillie bike. Big engine, big petrol tank, loads of storage and you’re ready to travel the globe, or up the M4 motorway into Central London! These bikes don’t come cheap, around £15,000 ($21,000) but they do bristle with technological aids to make your global tour or daily commute that bit more comfortable! Four different riding modes, road, rain, off road and going for it!(I made that one up!). A commanding riding position, electronic stability, heated grips and a clever computer that can tell you loads of info such as icy roads during your ride.

I know I’ve gone a bit off topic but I’m just trying to position just where this BMW sits in the minds of bikers. It’s the number one selling bike in Europe, again, despite its hefty price tag and it commands an insane second hand value. All down to Ewan and Charley who took these bikes around the globe.

Incidentally, the guys at KTM, an Austrian traillie bike manufacturer had been previously approached by Ewan and the gang but it seemed that the powers that be at KTM didn’t think they would make it or didn’t know who Ewan McGregor was! I wonder if the executive responsible for that decision is still there?!

Being totally honest, I do kinda lust after the BMW (it’s a 50-something thang!) So it actually made sense for me to choose it and either get it out of my system or convince myself to sell the Harley and become a R1200GS owner!

I remember telling the missus that I had decided on the Beemer (BMW) for the ride and waited for the abuse! I took it and gently explained about the wisdom of riding a ‘very safe’ BMW over half a ton of Harley Davidson, trying to convince myself at the same time!

So, the night before I leave for the USA. It’s gone 10pm and I’m being picked up at 8am; time to start packing.

Boots, leather jacket, two pairs of gloves, neck scarf, helmet, stop! Helmet was too big to fit into the bag. Ok, leave it and buy a cheap one out there. Bike trousers * 2, one pair of reinforced black jeans and another pair of Gore-Tex biker trousers, visor cleaner and microfibre cloth, flashlight, etc. You get the picture. I had a suitcase rammed full of biker gear and then I needed another suitcase with a suit, business attire and smart casual wear for the first four days of the Music Show.

It felt really strange packing what was ostensibly a ‘holiday’ suitcase as well as my regular business suitcase. Was I going to be able to concentrate on the main job in hand and compartmentalise the fact that I was going riding round SOCAL whilst I was doing business at the show?

The King is Dead, Long Live the King.

What a year it’s turning out to be.

I’m not going to catalogue all the musicians who have already passed away but it does seem like the Grim Reaper has suddenly turned his attention to the music industry with a certain vigour.

Recently we have bade farewell to so many  musical greats. Only this week, the fifth Beatle, George Martin joined this illustrious group – I had the pleasure some years ago of lunching at his home in Oxfordshire with his charming wife. I recall that the corridor was stacked with gold disks, too many than wall space allowed. What a charming pair they were and how inferior I felt in their presence.

As an adolescent, having been sent to a Cathedral choir school from the age of seven, I had a very eclectic and rather over developed musical taste. Much contemporary music was just too shallow for my palate until I came across Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Here I was, as a fifteen year old musician, listening to music that enthralled me and yet I couldn’t fully understand the chord progressions!  I had no way of being capable of playing the tracks by ear, something I was able to do with most music of that time!

Fast forward to 1987 and I had the delight of meeting one Keith Emerson of ELP and having  lunch with him. Here was a real musical legend and I was sitting opposite him. He was a real gentleman, relaxed and such a pleasant guy. I was in charge of a music store in central London, Keith would come in to town on his motorbike and want to discuss how to control the filters of a Roland sampler from the Yamaha KX88. A quick call to our hexadecimal bods in the R&D section, and we’d have an answer.

Some years later, I remember selling Keith a KORG M1 synth for his son. Everyone wanted the distinctive sound of the M1!

I have ofELPten said that if challenged to take one album to a desert island, I would take the strangely entitled Brain Salad Surgery from ELP.
I really can’t handle the thought that Keith has passed. He was only seventy one.

Benny was a bouncer from the Palais de Danse……….

So now he works for Jesus
As the bouncer at St. Peter’s Gate.

God bless you Keith.

Time for Tea!

I’ve been here so many times before that it’s no longer funny!!  Lying in bed in a Japanese hotel room at 4 am in the morning with my body clock screwed and feeling guilty that there’s email to read and respond to, Skype message threads to review and now, the latest, Whatsapp threads, when email just won’t do!

Finally the silent flashing on my phone becomes too much to bear – who’s the call from, do I need to urgently respond? In any event, it wasn’t urgent but now I’m up so might as well have a peak at those emails!

Hey Siri, what’s the time in England?  Always best to check before I launch into a phone call back home! It’s now 8pm in Blighty and nowadays so easy to put a call in back home or even Facetime!

It was quite different back in 1989 when I first ventured over to Japan.  It was a ‘lonnnnng’ three week trip and in addition to meetings and work, had included much sightseeing from Tokyo to ‘ancient city of Kyoto’ and over to Osaka.  Everything was alien, the transport system, simply getting from A to B, the incredible food, so many different styles from Teriyaki, Teppanyaki, Tempura and sushi and sashimi. I recall sitting in a noodle bar, being instructed how to slurp my noodles in a noisy fashion, to make the cool air pass over the noodle. It made sense but seated amongst the suited ‘salarymen’ of Tokyo, it was kinda weird!

Japan is a contradiction, incredibly modern at times and at the forefront of technology but played out against a traditionalism and a culture of respect and conservatism that would better suit England in the fifties!

I do remember that trying to call home back in the 90’s involved a complicated routine of prepaid phone card numbers and steps to get put through and the line sounded like it really was traveling those 6000 miles!  Nowadays, the iPhone takes care of it and I can hear my dogs barking in the background!

One thing I have learnt is to bring my own tea and some UHT milk. Japanese green tea or orange tea may be fine as an alternative to an after dinner Espresso(!), but when the jetlag is kicking in and there’s a full day ahead, I need a brew!

tea
Essential English Tea!

Okay, my iPhone, iPad and laptop are now all connected to the internet and I have a hot cup of tea in my palmed hands, so let’s dive into some email!!

Lights! Camera! Action!

The resulting video was the result of an initial email enquiry by ITN to me whilst I was up in Lancashire; ‘We want to come down and shoot a piece on SPICE, Special People on ICE and the temporary rink closure’ said the voice down the phone when I called. ‘Great’ I had said, ‘we run every Sunday from 10:30 till 12:15 fifty two weeks a year’

The voice at the other end of the phone listened and then said, ‘We want to come tomorrow around 1pm so we can run it on the evening’s show at 6 pm’!!

The good people of SPICE sprung into action and over the next 18 hours we received texts and emails from parents and volunteers confirming that ‘somehow’ they would be there to support us.

image.jpeg

As the video demonstrates, we indeed had a great turnout from some diehard members and volunteers and we were able to put on a great show, even managing the ‘Hokey Kokey’ as a finale!!

The fun and excitement we had yesterday obscured the reason why we had all hustled to be there.  Our rink is closing in October with the promise of a shiny new refurnished rink but with no temporary provision.

In the eyes of the council, there’s no money to provide anything temporary but where does that leave us, SPICE, the 160 young hockey players of the Slough Jets junior program, the four synchronised skating teams, the elite skaters as well as the good people of Slough, whilst this takes place?

Surely in 2016 we can explore some options, a phased reconstruction, an empty building on the Slough Trading Estate, a temporary rink such as those that spring up round the country during the holiday season?

I can’t but help feel that if our council would only accept my invitation to come down and see SPICE in action, then they would at least understand why we are so passionate about keeping what has taken fourteen years to build, whilst the refurbishment takes place.

So my message to  Slough Borough Council is clear; come down and meet us. Speak to our members and parents and let’s share both sides of the story and develop a plan.

We’re here every Sunday, 52 weeks a year, well that is of course, until the rink shuts in October.

SPICE on ITV

If It Ain’t Broke!!

Every Christmas I have a few days off. During that time, when it may be a bit too cold or wet to go out for a ride on my bike, I turn my attention to my website.

A message in the admin area always catches my attention – please update to the latest version as there are security vulnerabilities, yada, yada yada!!  Okay, so I start tinkering with the back end of the site which incidentally, is created in Drupal.

Now, to be honest, a good friend of mine created it with me sitting at his side nodding that I understood what he was doing – he got me on the Drupal bus! (Thanks Jules!)

This Christmas was no exception. Turkey, mince pies and website tweaking!  This time though, when I say that I broke it, I mean that I really broke it!  Like really really broke it.  ‘Well surely you backed up the database and could execute some Mysql command to get it all back?’ I hear you say?

Well, no and so I ditched it. I decided that there would no more messing about with Drupal and not fully understanding how to tweak the CSS or even run updates in maintenance mode.  I took the plunge and built a new site in WordPress.

I have to say that I’ve been really impressed with the simplicity of WordPress, the tons of useful plugins that are available, and ‘touch wood’ we’re rocking!

You’ll find my new website at http://www.spiceskating.org and I’d be really grateful if you’d check it out and if you like it, please leave a comment.

SPICE website

Next Christmas, I think I’ll put my name down for some overtime!!

What exactly is SOCAL?

So I’m back from Southern California or SOCAL as they call it!

I’ve brought with me a really bad head cold – I couldn’t taste the fantastic curry my wife had prepared and everything sounds like I have my hands over my ears.!

My body clock is screwed. It’s midnight, feels like midday and I’m sitting here, on my Technogym ball, writing this post to you all!

I’m also ten pages into my travelogue of my recent motorbike ride around SOCAL – 600 miles in nearly 3 days and we survived it! Survived what?  Oh, you’re going to need to read my travelogue, if I ever finish it to find out the goss!

So, whats going in on my life at the moment.?

Well, the Slough ice rink in Berkshire is planning to close in nine months time where I spend a lot of my time. There appears to be no provision for a temporary rink whilst the current one is being refurbished. That’s serious bad news and we have to sort this out for all the SPICE members that rely on me to fix things!!  ‘Ricci will make it all right’ said one SPICE member this morning!  No pressure then!

Terry Wogan has just passed away. A real stalwart of radio and of BBC CIN who have supported SPICE for many years. It’s still January 2016 and we’ve already lost DJ ,Ed Stewart,  David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan and Glenn Frey, founder of the Eagles – not a great start to 2016!

If you’re reading this, I’ve managed to work out how to post in my WordPress account.  To those you who are still using Drupal. Move over to WordPress and get your life back!

I’m also assuming that you know what SPICE is. If you don’t, head over to www.spiceskating.org to find out more.

36 years ago, I was in a band that was signed to Rocket Records called Arrogant. As I write, there is a very slim chance that we may reform!

Here’s to February 2016, whatever you may hold instore for us all!

Ricci