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7th Belgium Pow Wow 2003



The beers weak, the country's boring and the people are no fun

If you agree with the above then you haven’t been to the Indian rally run by Claude, Rolly and Marcel, this has to one of the rallies you should pencil in on your calendar at the beginning of every year

We set out from Lincolnshire visited a few friends on the way and met up with Ray & Caryll Chriss at that exclusive B+B near Brighton on the Wednesday, ready for an early start to catch the boat from Dover next morning. Those of you that have known Ray for a few years may remember his 45mph sherpa van along with his steady economy driving style, well that went straight out of the window in the 70mph dash to the boat and some inventive ambush avoidance techniques in Dover got us to the boat with only a 10 minute wait for loading (neat! he said-we needn’t get up earlier)

Over the channel and a steadier run through France and into Belgium with a flying stop at the fag shops, then on again into Diksmuide for the first of many casual respites at a coffee shop (why is it nice to drink coffee in the street abroad but lousy if you do it here)

Where were we? Oh yeah onwards to the rally still following Ray like a blind dog thinking to myself that we just passed the turning I used last time we came here and lo and behold he swings into Marcel’s farm at Klerken

So it's up with the tent get a coffee sorted and go to say hello!  and see who else is here a day early. If nothing else its a good chance to look at Marcel’s workshop and bikes, next thing we know Rat has turned up on his chief and Ray has shattered a filling, were the two related? I’m not sure and nobody's telling, but Rat runs Ray off to a local dentist who freezes his face (there’s an improvement) and digs the bits out free of charge whilst thinking " These Indian bikes must be fast look how his beard has slipped  "

Meanwhile Bill and Lorraine’s whole family turn up complete with that really rather nice twin headlight Panther and the English contingent now hold one end of the field for king and country as more folks and bikes arrived and the rest of us lazed the day away in the sun or took a quick trip into the nearby village,

For some strange reason all of the foreign riders camp at the other end of the field maybe it has to do with Caryll's snoring, I'm not sure.   In the evening we tried out the Belgium equivalent of fast food, mussels and chips cooked by Claude and was impressed, then we spend the rest of the evening sampling the local beer

Friday: - weather still good and more bikes turn up and we're off to Diksmuide to retry the coffee culture and find the town centre has been taken over by a peace walk for soldiers and civilians and the whole place is full of military vehicles and soldiers complete with guns (instant respect guaranteed) but the band playing was good fun.

Back on the site to find an interesting display of how to change the clincher type tyres on a 1919 power plus combo and if you kept track of it they re-punctured the tube time and time again just to show how good they were at removing and refitting that tyre, at least I think that was why! ,

Peering around in Marcel’s son's workshop there was an interesting range of  bikes from normal tupperware racers, through custom cruisers a pair of India enfields, one with the widest most sturdy set of crash bars I’ve ever seen, a very narrow Harley Sportster chop and a Harley fat shiny thing that Alan Gould would probably swap his girlfriend for (I’m sure this man is really a closet HOG member I even caught him sitting on it goin " Broom Broom " Oh! sorry according to a TV programme this week that should be " Potato Potato " I shouldn’t want to offend any HOG members we already have), Also there was a quite interesting Gillete-Herstal which I guess was the 500cc. These were a Belgium bike firm that worked from 1919 until the early 60's they also made a v-twin at one stage using the Swiss MAG engine, around 1929 they produced an ohv single and spent some time record breaking with it, If you happen to have one of the v-twins I should love a look sometime

Back on the field someone has turned up with a pair of Sarolea's, also Belgium made. This company ran from 1898 to 1957 and pre world war 2 the sequel they built and raced a full range of bikes from 125cc upwards, and I didn't think anyone made bikes before Indians at least that’s what I keep telling these Harley riding bank managers.

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Some tinkering back at the rally site

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Old fish market pit stop

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Gordon Holland on his 1939 panther

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The English delegation on their best behaviour

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Half way stop at the Trenches for lunch


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Saturday night dinner

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When ridden it was interesting!

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Ray Chriss's 101

What else, Oh Yeah Indians, well there was a nice un-restored '28 scout, that’s only had two owners from new and has never lived outside of the village. The first being the village doctor and the second being Marcel’s younger son Peter and as those who know him will tell you, He rides it as if it was a new bike, which going on mileage it really is, also Peter showed me around the dents and scrapes on his Chief mostly caused by falling asleep whilst riding it, this included an impressive scollop in the tank done by head butting it on exit (not to be advised).

By now several very nicely restored Chiefs had been wheeled into the workshop for overnight secure storage and Ray had moved in part of his collection including his Sheffield-Henderson another smashing bike built I’m told by a sidecar company but looks like it was made by a watchmaker.

Also riding about the place was the Nimbian, which if you haven’t seen it, is a perfect graft of a Nimbus four engine into an Indian 4 frame, and possibly it looks better than the original of either company.

Right then, It's time to eat, drink and be merry the food at this rally is great, the entertainment is also and the drinking ........well it was 5.30 am when we stopped but everyone else seemed to have sloped off (lightweights!)

Saturday:   - " Why are you waking me so soon " oh right breakfast! cooked by Bill and Lorraine, how they managed to get co-opted into that I’ll never know but they did and it was great but I was just told this as I was still on autopilot

Next, check out the map on the barn door that tells you where to go for petrol before the run starts and shows where you will need the coffee tokens and entrance during the day so don't leave them behind and we're off on the run its going to be the latest British assault on Flanders fields (if you don't understand this your too young, so go talk to your granddad, Ray Chriss, or back to your WW1 history annual, I'm sure Anita will supply this in 105 weekly episodes at £12.50 a week),

So we're off into the Belgium countryside being led by Marcel on a chief heading for Ieper, Ypres or wipers pick one dependant on your age or nationality, flanked by a large white van and escorted by outriders on modern machines who had to be seen to be believed when it came to blocking off junctions and roundabouts and says a lot about the calm nature of the local drivers, I only heard one car blow his horn at them all day..their survival rating in the UK would be about 15 minutes.  

Sadly about ten minutes out we lost the Powerplus and chair to yep, a puncture ...more practice needed and after a flying visit to one of the many war cemeteries or maybe we just took a wrong turn, we made our way to Hill 62.

 This is a trench museum and photographic archive and also where we stopped for coffee and enormous rolls brought in by the backup team and a chance to give the backside a rest the roads aren't all as smooth as you come to expect Anita spotted her new crash hat in the cafe the type worn by the Kaiser's men with the spike on top but Pete doubts it will pass the BS approval back home.

Back on the road again and we haven’t stopped at a roundabout or junction so far but Rat has decided Anita's bike looks shinier than his and with incredible skill and dexterity only available to a trained man has removed the rear number plate, He really knows how to get on her good side.... Brave man...

A bit further on Marcel succumbed to an electrical gremlin on the chief, which gave a us chance to have a fag and for Rat to cross examine one of the locals, while we watched in amazement as Marcel’s son Peter kicked the chief over with a leg encased in plaster, any way a change of bikes and we were off again.

Not to be deflected from our planned route we negotiated with ease a road closed off for a motocross event in one village and what seemed to be another closed for major road works, then on into Ieper town centre where the next round of the peace march was going on, and with some deft manoeuvring we got parked up in front of the cafe where our free beer tickets were exchanged for welcome refreshments.

Here in Ieper we had a 2 hour stop to allow for visiting the Flanders Fields interactive museum, Which was interesting and thought provoking, you got a random card on entry containing an identity of a combatant which you fed into machines as you go round to see how you fared during the war, Amazingly enough I got a chap not far up the road from where I live. As we came out the army had arranged a band playing just for us, plus a march past (nice people)

After this we drank more coffee and pestered a Rottwieler for amusement then headed back up the trench line to the rally site, all in all about a 6 hour ride out

Evening saw us ready for the pig roast, more beer and the music all of which was great.  Anita and Pete over for just a day trip, sadly had to leave for home before the climax of the Belgium rallies, The Now Legendary Elvis Impersonator, gosh, she was upset. Now for those who haven’t seen him, he's either great or crap, some folks just laugh, some of the women seem to adore him and other folk totally ignore him, such is the fickle nature of being a rock superstar....or not! (check this out with Alan Forbes)

The customary raffle instead of prize giving went on, and it was amusing that when people chose their prize they all missed the one that just looked like paperwork, but was in fact a 5-day boat ticket to the UK. So the last man to win got the big prize, it just shows we're all attracted to shiny things first

After a few beers I was dragged way to bed ready for the drive home next day, even before Elvis had done his 3rd set.  Boo Hiss

Sunday: - Saw Bill doing brekky for 100 again and we packed for home.

Ray Rat And Caryll made an early start out to invade further into the Belgium heartland to partake in the Old Klepper run for vintage machinery, and some of the others went out on a Sunday morning jaunt around the Ostende area.

On the way back we mused over the facts that the Belgium beers aren’t as week as you think, the country is rather nice, with less people and traffic than here and the Belgium bike riders are great fun to party with and seem not to get arsey about anything.

So if you found all this boring then we probably won't see you there next year and we won't miss you.

But if you think it sounds a bit of a laugh then we'll see you in a field somewhere in Belgium for the next British invasion and you can write the rally report.

Keith Bird                   

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