The annual bike club trips are always among the high spots of my year - a time of great roads, wonderful sights and fantastic food, and also of laughter and the closeness that comes with unique, shared experiences. On wheels, my dad and I enjoyed a matey, equal relationship and an understanding we didn't have when I was a child.
This year, of course, he wasn't there.
Although he couldn't be with us his bike, sold to Howard, was, and it was comforting to see the familiar rear view up ahead. June 24th, the day the RT broke down in the Italian mountains, was its former owner's birthday.
I think of my dad every time I go for a ride - there are so many little incidents and details I want to relate, that would bore anyone else but he would have lapped up. He was never far from my thoughts throughout my Alpine adventures.
I missed him translating a French menu faultlessly and tackling the meal with gusto, chuckling at the group's banter and occasionally throwing in a dry, witty comment. I missed the regular need for black coffee and a fag and the utter relaxation which accompanied his partaking of them.
I missed his wholehearted admiration of skilful riding by others, something I can never manage without a tinge of jealosy; his boundless joy at great roads in new places and the pride and pleasure he took in leading us somewhere fab.
I missed the enthusiasm and humour that shone out from the well-crafted writeups afterwards.
This travelogue is therefore dedicated to cybersofa, with thanks and affection. In more ways than one, I wouldn't have been there without him.