Day 2 - UKBEG meet up in Cassel

Saturday 28th June 2014

We are on the road and heading for the Channel Tunnel at 8am. A thumb down signal from an oncoming sports bike rider warns us to slow down and, around the next corner we glide sedately past the copper with the radar gun standing on the central reservation. Thumb up sign from him, a good start to the day.
Buelligans start to gather in Cassel
The Eurotunnel experience is a breeze as usual. Our neighbours are a couple on a K1600GT, an enormous bike with more carrying capacity than many a small car. It's not theirs but a loaner from BMW to replace their recalled R1200RT. The new water-cooled RT has a major rear shock problem and all bikes have been recalled to the dealers for a fix. They seemed happy enough as they headed off for the South of France.

From Calais we head east for the short run to Cassel near the Belgian border. It's a small historic old town on a hill, with cobblestone roads and fine architecture. It has also become the meeting place of choice for the UKBEG contingent.

A word of explanation here. While I ride BMW bikes on tour my real bike love is reserved for my 2001 Buell X1, pretty much the best fun bike ever made.
UKBEG is the UK Buell Enthusiasts Group, an eclectic mix of people who share a passion for the marque. Over the last dozen years these folk have shared with me some of the best moments of my life.
The Lauwe party is organised by our opposite numbers in Belgium, the Twinpower club. It is a typical small bike rally with two bands playing, a monster barbecue, major beer intake and a whole lot of banter and laughter, held at a working farm near the village of Lauwe in Belgium.

So we meet up with the gang and our Belgian friends at a cafe in the centre of Cassel.  I feel sorry for the wedding party emerging from the town hall next door into a sea of leather clad loons and their motorbikes. Fortunately the wedding pics are only just beginning when we leave.
Meeting up with a lot of old friends
The convoy of bikes numbers around 60. The organisation of this rideout is superb with the local marshals stopping all other traffic at roundabouts and major junctions, then blasting past us to take up position at the next intersection. It is flawless and we cruise sedately through Flanders Fields, under the Menen Gate and on to a stop at Tyne Cot war graves cemetery in Passchendaele.
War graves at Tyne Cot military cemetery
Our visit to Tyne Cot was a sobering moment. So many graves, many simply marked 'British Soldier' or 'German Officer'. The cemetery is immaculate, with thousands of flowers growing between the graves. My grandfather was gassed in this war. What a waste of lives the whole thing was.

Today happens to be the anniversary of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, in Sarajevo in 1914 which kicked off the Great War.
So many graves
By coincidence I have with me a series of podcasts about the Great War by the American broadcaster Dan Carlin. I listen to these when going to sleep or in the early hours when sleep is hard to come by.

If you are interested in this period of history then I urge you to search out Dan Carlin's podcasts on his website or in iTunes. They are a quite brilliant commentary on this most tragic of all wars.

Lots of fun despite the rain

The rain starts as we finish putting up the tents and continues relentlessly throughout the evening. But no way does this dampen the spirits at a Buelligan gig. An evening of general bacchanalia ensues.

The first band were rather loud and a bit disorganised, the second were solid rockers. Highlights for me were Att going off on one in the bar (you have to know Att to get this), Richie's t-shirt (not before the 9 o'clock watershed) and Mojomick on stage performing "Riding in the Rain".
Rocking in Belgium
We'll draw a veil over Magz' behaviour and the less said about Nick the better. Suffice to say a grown man should know better at 3 o'clock in the morning.

Thanks to Kev Meanwell who doesn't yet know I nicked his photos from Facebook. And a big shout for our Belgian hosts for a wonderful day and night and a cracking barbecue.

Will it be enough?

Tomorrow Luxembourg and the fabled High Chapparal.  


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