Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Heath Robinson invention

No, this is not a post about the eccentric 20th century cartoonist; it's about my crazy husband. He  of the like-mindedness of the crazy horses on our yard. (I had to say that!) 

Early in April I posted about round trip to see John, Debbie and grandchildren living in the Cape for the moment. We'd ridden down there on the new 20 year-old Harley Davidson with no extras. It's called  a naked bike as it has no windscreen, no luggage, no heated grips or seats; all luxuries we took for granted with all our previous motorbikes, all BMW's. However, the trip was most enjoyable and the bike very comfortable.

That is... once we got going.

During March we had the normal summer showers. Towards the end of the month (when we were due to go on our trip) the weather dried up. Not a drop. Until the day before our departure. The heavens opened. Grant and I sat in the house - deafening rain pelting down on the tin roof - and looked at each other. How would we get out along the servitude and up past the primary school just beyond the property? The Harley Davidson isn't designed for dirt roads at best, and when wet, we knew it would be a nightmare. 

Next morning he asked me to check on the going (is it good or not, like in horse racing) when I took the dogs for their early morning walk. I returned at 5.30 and told him the grass and road was very wet. If we wait until 8 when the sun had had a chance to dry it out a little, we'd probably make it. He agreed.

At 7.15 Grant was champing at the bit and said we should go. We loaded up the backpacks - one tied to the sissy bar of the bike and one on my back. He rode the bike through the two property gates while I locked up. I saw him take off, and as he set off and disappeared out of sight, I heard the engine noise change. I thought: Oh good, he's changed gear and would make it along the servitude to the top gate. As I rounded the corner I saw what had caused the change in engine sound: Grant was on the ground easing his left leg out under the fallen motorbike. 

Oh dear. Wearing biking boots and a helmet with a pack on my back, I couldn't get to him any quicker than I did. When I reached the scene, he and I stood and looked at the bike lying in the veld! He said as soon as he tried to ride on the grassy middle path. 

Nevertheless, he said we need to lift it up and I said as long as it doesn't hurt my back! But, surprisingly the Harley Davidson is a lot easier to lift than the BMW was. (yes, we dropped that bike here on the farm road way back in November as well! That day we had to ask a passing taxi driver to help us lift it!)
The bike in the field after we'd righted it! 

Grant started the bike again and rode without further mishap to the servitude gate. I opened the gate and Grant went through; but around the corner was a slimy piece of dirt road which the bike would NOT have been able to negotiate. 

He parked the bike in the road again and we stood and watched the children walking up a path to the school around the corner. I decided to walk to the school and see if I could get help.

Once there, I found the gardener who indicated he spoke no English. A teacher, who spoke perfect English, popped her head out of her classroom door and when I asked her if I could borrow four young boys and the gardener, she quickly told them to go with me. 

I don't know if they thought this old gogo (grandmother pronounced gaw-kaw) was crazy but they obediently followed me to where Grant was waiting at the bike. He explained to the adult and boys in Zulu that he needed them to push him along the road and to hold on tight especially where the going was slippery. 

And off they went! Five people getting a handhold wherever they could and pushing the squat Harley  with Grant's long legs paneling the road at the same time. 
 The gardener and school boys push Grant along the dirt road
 I ran along behind them getting it all on record

Here in the shade, the road was extra slimy 
and the helpers redoubled their efforts to help Grant and bike over it
 Note the young lad on the left carrying my helmet;
they were the sweetest and most helpful boys 

At the top he reached firm dry ground. We thanked our helpers and off they went back to the school. I mounted the bike behind Grant and we set off up the dirt road, met the tar road and the rest of the 1400km to Mossel Bay was easy!

Each evening as we stopped over with friends, Grant wondered how we could get off the farm in a more dignified manner. When we returned home he set about designing a ramp/trailer type carrier which is mounted to the back of our pick-up. The bike is ridden up the ramp, onto the carrier and secured there. The back wheel remains on the ground. Next time we go out on the bike, we will tow it the five kilometers to a restaurant where we know the owner. Grant will remove the bike from the carrier and we'd get on and ride off into the sunrise. The pick-up truck will stay in the restaurant car park until our return. 

The designing and building was the easy part. I only saw it happening out of the corner of my eye. I had nothing to do with it. 

So I thought...

Then came testing his theory. And I heard that I would be instrumental in helping to test it. 

First,  I have to give a bit of backstory concerning my thumbnail. Really my thumb nail not the small pictures we have on memes here on Blogger. 

About three months ago, as I fed Thunder a carrot, he bit down on my thumb. There seemed to be no damage but the thumb throbbed somewhat. A few days later as I opened the top property gate, part of the barb wire pressed down and hurt my nail. Yes, the same thumbnail. When I got to Jessica, my manicurist and she removed the gel, she pointed out the dark bruising under the nail. 

A week later I was helping Grant to put the motorbike on a stand so that he could check the oil. I slid a support under the engine block and he let the bike down. On my nail. The thumbnail! 

At my next nail appointment at the end of April as Jessica removed the gel and checked my thumbnail, she said I was going to lose it. 


This weekend the nail cracked and on Tuesday I popped into Jessica's salon where she removed it completely.  She suggested I get a topical antibiotic ointment from the doctor as the new nail was already emerging but needed attention. 

Now, back to testing Grant's Heath Robinson bike loader invention.

After we returned from the salon, Grant explained that if he rides the bike's front wheel up the ramp and onto the carrier, would I secure the ratchet-operated bike ties to the bike and the other hook to the back of the pick-up. He would show me exactly how.


The bike roared into action and up the ramp to the carrier where the wheel stopped. He put his feet on the ground and held the bike secure. 

I had the one end of the bike tie in my hand and hooked it into the designated place under the bike handlebars. So far so good.  Now I had to pull the tie tight working the ratchet. Only thing is, the ratchet-thingy was lying in the pick-up bin, I had to stand on tiptoe to reach it and use my right-hand with the sensitive thumbnail bed where the nail had just been removed.

As I pulled the ratchet gear towards me, Grant said: Not downwards; UPwards! I changed the motion and he still said UPwards!

Completely confused now, I stood down and looked at him. Exactly what should I be doing with the thing? He was gripping the handlebars and feet still holding the bike upright and said if he could, he'd do it himself. 

Oh *sigh*

I reached for the ratchet again and jiggled the gear and suddenly the strap pulled taut. Voila! Quickly I went to the other side and repeated the operation. Grant got off the bike, secured the other two straps by threading them through the spokes of the wheel and he was ready to test the invention. 

 Skabenga is always in on everything that happens on the farm! 
The bike was most secured as he towed it; the design was doing what it was supposed to be doing

Back home Grant mounted the bike again and we reversed the whole operation. Only this time, I released the gears so quickly;  the ratchets screamed, loosening the tension and Grant had all his work cut out to hold the bike upright.


I'm linking to Our World Tuesday here



  1. Oh the memories. I can remember a 600 kilometre trip on the Ducati. NOT comfortable for passengers. It was new so I had instructions to keep my hand under the pack on my back so it didn't scratch the duck-tail if we hit a bump. And we followed a cattle truck into the city his parents lived in. They all had upset tummies. Which sprayed back on us. When his parents first saw me I was covered in cow manure and thumping their son.... Not the best introduction but we all got over it.
    How is your poor thumb now?

  2. Help I can't write because I am rolling on the floor laughing my head off period this is absolutely hilarious except of course your poor thumbnail. Might I just say men! That said it is a great invention thanks for my morning smile

  3. Oh my you experienced a lot with the bike! I am always told that Harley Davidsons are not meant to sit comfortable, they are a way of life ;) This particular bike looks beautiful!

  4. Hello, what an ordeal! I am glad all worked out with the bike and towing idea! The children were so nice to help you out too! Enjoy your day!

  5. What a great story except for your poor thumbnail. Hopefully it is better now. You guys live a very interesting life and thanks for sharing these wonderful slices of life with us.

  6. I only tried once to ride on a bike and swore to myself never again ! What troubles you had and I can hear Grant until here when you tried to help him ! lol At least you could have heard R until SA . That's rather painful loosing a thumbnail, especially on a finger ! I tell you drive by car and forget the bike ! But I know that it's probably as if he should get rid of a leg !


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo