The Oude Klepper Parade, Belgium - August 2009
(Click the photo to see a larger picture in a slide show.)

Thursday 20th August saw us load the '08 Triumph Outfit on to our trailer, along with packing the car for an 8pm getaway. We were due to catch the 7am ferry the following morning so the overnight drive to Ramsgate seemed the sensible thing. Josie was coming with us and Terry and Dilys were also coming with their motor-home and the sleeve-valve Beardmore Precision. Terry had made an earlier start than us and it was gone midnight when we were to hit the M26 - that's the link between the M25 and the M20 to Dover. When we got there it was closed and we were diverted up towards the Dartford Tunnel.

Never mind, we had plenty of time and a good GPS system. The problem was that the exit that we should have taken was also closed and we were soon heading towards the tunnel and a Thames crossing - not where we wanted to be at all. I must say that I've never seen so many road works and traffic cones - they were everywhere. Terry reckoned that they were getting ready to create as much havoc as they could for the Bank Holiday weekend in a weeks time. We did eventually make Ramsgate at about 2am, which was not bad at all I suppose. Terry and Dilys were already there and at the front of the queue.

The crossing was calm and we were greeted in Ostend with wall to wall sunshine. The drive to the campsite in De Haan was punctuated with a stop at a local cafe for a celebratory beer. Anyway, we were soon settled in to our cabin not far from Terry and Dilys's and at 5.30pm decided to walk into De Haan to find a restaurant. Our first choice was 'The Lord' and we were all soon tucking in to a good feed - there's something about a nice edible peppered steak washed down with a nice Belgian beer.

Saturday dawned and it was time to get the bikes ready. We were all due to meet at 2pm in the car park behind the town hall for a short 'unofficial' ride. It's something that I suggested a few years back in order to make more of a 'weekend' of the event for those that travel from afar. Each year has seen more and more OKP entrants turn up and, no doubt due to the good weather, this year saw a turnout of over 25 machines.

The afternoon run took mostly small country roads and ended up at the Motorcycle Loft Hotel between Ostend and Oudenburg.

The hotel is a place that caters only for motorcyclists and you can stay there - in fact we did a few years ago - but wouldn't do so again, however that's another story. One thing that you can see is the museum of autocycles and cyclemotors that is owned and run by Johan Schaeverbeke - his web site is here: - oldtimermotorenmuseum. We spent a very pleasant afternoon in the sunshine looking at all the OKP bikes and drinking Ice Tea - no beer, I think? I didn't tour the museum as I've seen it three times previously, but most of the riders had a look around at the collection of machines.

Back In De Haan we collected Dilys and Josie and decided to patronise the campsite tearoom for a beer and something to eat.

Sunday and the OKP - we set off from the campsite at 9.30 for the start outside the De Haan Town Hall at 10.30am.
The main road through De Haan is always closed for our event and there is a large stage where the bikes and entrants are presented to the public which line the road and must number well up into the thousands. Jean is pictured in her 'period' oufit with a 1922 'Stovepipe' Nimbus on the platform ready to be the first bike away.

The two ladies in the first photo below were the programme sellers and certainly always get into the spirit of the event each year with their outfits. I'm told that they always make their own costumes. One of the things about the OKP is that it always throws up something unusual - such as the 1902 Herdtle-Bruneau with it's diminutive engine. Have a good look at it in the row below as it's in completely original condition. I don't think that you'll ever see another.

Jean and I were away as number 20 and in no time we were presented to the crowd and were off. Terry followed riding number 59 out of the 68 entries. Normally the OKP has a cut off date of 1920, but this year the date was opened up to 1925 for machines of special interest. We were soon out into the beautiful Flanders countryside and enjoying the sunshine. The route took us into Ostend - not the place to negotiate with a single speed clutchless outfit, but we managed to thread our way through the traffic okay and out onto the pedestrianised promenade.

The town council had laid out a route along the promenade for us interspersed with the odd barrier or two and we had been told to be wary of pedestrians, especially children. Eventually we were all gathered together at the far end of the Prom and provided with drinks and a plate of salad as a snack. At one point the council tourist officer made a speech of welcome which was responded to by Ronald Florens.

After an hours stop we were back on the road, again to contend with Ostends traffic lights and congestion. Soon though, we were on the outskirts and entered the suburb of Stene where we stopped for lunch.

The lunch consisted of a platter of meats along with a baked potato and the customary salad. We spent as short a time as possible in the restaurant as it was a trifle hot - but outside on the terrace it was much better.

Next stop after the next leg of the route was in Oudenburg - or was it Ettlegem - well, not to worry as there was an ice cream organised for us all as we were met by a guy playing an accordian.

The 1914 Scott arrived with front forks bent - a tribute to a pothole on one of the roads. In fact the front mudguard had to be removed in order for the outfit to continue. There was a rather nice 1910 Precision that I managed to photograph and it gave Terry some thought as Precision had not made such a bike. The only complete machines that Precision had made were a few Vee Twins after 1912 and they were all exported to Australia. F.E.Baker was more well known as a supplier of his Precision engines and they had been fitted in many makes just as JAP and Villiers used to do. Baker made his first 499cc engine in 1910 and did not manufacture a complete machine until 1912, so something appeared wrong with this example. We came to the conclusion that the bike was of another make and that the restorer had assumed that it was a Precision due to the identity of the motor alone, but it was a pretty bike all the same.

Back at the finish we were greeted by Paul St Mard and his wife Dorette, who had come to see the spectacle - it was nice to see them both even though we didn't have much more time together than it took to down a quick drink.

The event rounded off with a hog roast and the prize giving. I must say that it was pleasing that there was a trophy for the youngest rider - and he was only 16, hope yet for our movement, don't you think.

Back to the campsite and we had five days of rest to look forward to. Rest? some hope - Monday we caught the coastal tram into Ostend and spent the day there - so much so that we decided that Tuesday would be a day of letting our legs and feet recover before we set of to Kruishoutem and a visit to Pierre's home for an evening meal. Wednesday saw us on the tram again and then the train to Brugge for a sight seeing tour - gosh, what a pretty place it is and having been there many times I never fail to enjoy a walk around. So, just to bore you - some photos of Brugge - see who you can spot: -

We were to catch the 13.30 ferry on the Friday but it was delayed until 14.00 which meant that we didn't make it home and to bed until 2am on Saturday. All in all a very successful event with the OKP and an enjoyable trip which, in a small way saddens me, as so many of our members could have been with us - it's only a case of making an effort. Think about it for next year.