February 2000 Ride Feature www.virtualindian.org   
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  International Indian Rally Finland 1999
   By John Wright
Our trip to Finland was booked two months ahead. Myself and Annette  Jess and Elaine were to fly from Manchester Airport to Helsinki, collect our hire bikes and ride them to the rally site. 

Unfortunately my wife Annette had slipped a disk 10 days before we were due to depart and could not come, but being the nice understanding wife that she is, I was still allowed to go. 

Wednesday 28 th July  
I packed my bag said my good byes to my wife and family and set off in my battered old Fiat Tipo (the shed) to drive to the hotel in Manchester were I was to meet up with Jess and Elaine. Two hours later I find myself aimlessly driving around the streets of Manchester looking for the Crester Court hotel, I eventually find it 20 minuets later. As I book in Jess comes down from his room to meet me. After I get settled in my room, a single very small, Jess invites me along to his room to meet Elaine. The room is a very large bridal suite, is he always this lucky I say to myself. Now itís down to the bar for a few beers before off to bed for our early start in the morning. 

Thursday 29 th July 
Six thirty the next morning I drag myself out of bed pack up and go down to reception to meet Jess and Elaine, for the taxi to the airport. We arrive at the airport and check in our bags for our flight to Heathrow, where we change airplanes for our flight to Helsinki. We board the aircraft take off have breakfast and land all in 55 mins. The time between airplanes is only 25 minutes so we have to run to the correct terminal, Heathrow is busy isnít it? We board the aircraft and settle down for the flight to Helsinki. Nice meal on the plane (salmon), we ask the stewardess for some words in Finnish but give up, we could not get our tongues around the words. 
We land at Helsinki airport at 13.30 pm UK time but the time here is two hours ahead, 15.30pm, so we have an hour and a half to get to the motorbike hire shop before it closes. We stand at the luggage carousel and wait for our bags to appear. The airport is a stopping over point for Japanese air lines on their way to America and the concourse is teeming with Japanese people with their guides shouting instructions, it is even busier than Heathrow. Here we are, still standing at the carousel waiting for our bags, just starting to regret putting all my motorcycling gear in them and thinking what was the name of the hire shop again, yes all the paperwork for the motorbike hire was in my bag. All the passengers, but six from our plane have gone, so we go to the information desk to make an enquiry about our bags, a very helpful lady who spoke perfect English informs us the are bags are still in Heathrow. I remember that the hire  company is called Budget so we go to the Budget car hire desk and another helpful lady who speaks perfect English informs us of the bike hire shopís address and telephones the shop to ask them to wait for us, they say yes. 

We rush outside the airport into perfect weather, 25 degrees and the sun is beaming down. Jess grabs a taxi we pile in and show the lady taxi driver the address of the hire shop, she does not speak English, we tear through the streets of Helsinki and of course get stopped at every traffic light. We reach the shop and there standing outside gleaming in the sunshine are the two bikes we have come to collect. Now it would have been very nice if they could have been two Blackhawk Chiefs but that was not to be, they were two Harley Davison Heritage Softtails, one red and one black. We filled out all the paper work, dented our credit cards, picked our crash helmets and examined the map for the route to Riihimaki were the camping ground Lempivanra is located. 
We start the motorbikes mount up and set off. How you remember the traffic lights that slowed us down on the way to the hire shop, well they were all on red on the way out to. This gave us instant training in the HD clutch. At last out of the town and heading up the Route 3 towards Tampere. The sun is still shinning and it is warm, just as well as we have no riding jackets or gloves. Now it is about 60 kilometers from Helsinki to Riihimaki and after only stopping four times to look at the map we arrived at the turn off for Riihimaki. We follow the Indian signs and arrive at the camping ground Lempivanra. It is 6.30 p.m., we are greeted by Tony Leenes and friends, Kai Vina, of the Finish Indian club. We check in and make are way to the log cabin that is to be are home for the next few days. (See photos). Not what you would call large, but comfortable. 
Now not having anything to unpack we walk down to the bar for a beer to wash out the dust of Finland from our mouths. Beer drunk we decide to have a ride in to town and see some of the nightlife. Riihimak is a very quiet place and after a very nice meal in a restaurant we return to the camping ground, lock up the bikes and return to the bar for a good night talking to the new arrivals and sampling more beer. A telephone call from the airport informs us that are bags will be delivered to the camping ground at 10.00 am the next morning. With this good news we decide to retire to the log cabin for a good nights rest. 

Friday 30 th July 
Up and dressed in the same clothes at about 8.30 am we await the arrival of our bags by taxi from the airport. A walk round the site while we are waiting is a good idea and off we go. A lot of riderís from Sweden have arrived over night and the site is beginning to fill up. Our bags arrive and we change, wash and begin to think of food. A ride done the town for breakfast is decided on and off we go. We park up and walk down the main street,  post cards are bought and posted home. Our breakfast is had at a McDonalds, yes McDonalds is in Finland and the same menu as in England. Back to the site and lots more people have and are arriving. I watch the Indians arriving from all over the world and taking lots of photos. After lunch we decide to visit two of the local places of interest, the Finish Glass museum and National Hunting museum of Finland. The glass museum was very interesting, I did not know that Finland was very famous for glass making going back over the centuries. The hunting museum was interesting, a lot of dead stuffed animals and hundreds of guns. 

It is now late afternoon and we decide to go for a ride around the local countryside. The sun is still shining and it is very hot. Thirty miles later after riding around the local roads and not passing a single car or motorcycle we head back to the site and find that lots more people and Indians have arrived. Time for dinner and off back down to town for another nice meal in a different restaurant. Back to the site, park and lock the bikes and head for the bar for the unofficial welcome party, and another good night is had by all. 

Saturday 31 st July 1999 
The morning is sunny and warm and we head down to the site restaurant for our breakfast of eggs, cooked meat and cheese, very tasty. We now have a couple of hours to kill waiting for the ride out at 11.30. This is spent browsing through the swap meet stands and watching more people arriving. 
The ride out was to be 80 km with a stop for a snack at a Service station that had a terrace snack bar. The rules for the ride use a helmet, remember the Finnish alcohol law, one small beer only and most important look out for ELKS! So at 11.30am we all mounted our motorbikes and followed the lead rider. The route took us through some wonderful countryside, large and small towns. At the first petrol stop about half the riders stopped for petrol and a queue formed at the pumps. Now in Finland a lot of the garages are self service, but the pumps have a slot in them that you feed in paper money, follow the instructions and petrol is dispensed. So picture the scene about 20 Indians queuing for a turn at the pump. All different nationalities, the weather red hot, all of us sweating in our riding gear. So I decide to push the big HD out of the way until the rush dies down, I get off the bike and lean it on the side stand so I can take off my helmet. Unfortunately I had forgotten to put the side stand down and to my great embarrassment and to the great delight of all the Indian riders looking on, the big HD fell to the ground and broke one of the levers on the handle bars. Now have you ever tried to lift a HD back up onto its wheels by yourself? Boy are they heavy, so after the laughter died down three kind souls helped me lift it up. I then put in the petrol and rode away to catch up with the main group. Further along the road I came across two Indians stopped on the side of the road, a 741b and a Chief, the Chief had stalled, but the kick starter holding nut had fell off and got lost so it could not be kick started. So off with the crash helmet and motorcycle jacket and a push started it after about 50 Mt., Boy was I hot, dressed again we headed for the stopping point and a cool drink. I arrived at the stopping point to find a party in full swing, all the locals had turned out to welcome us, there was a Disco playing, cold drink dispensed, food being eaten. 
After about an hourís rest the group saddled up again for the ride back to the site. We arrived back at the site in time for the lunch, this consisted of chunks of salmon and potato in a soup with bread.  It was delicious. Lunch over we were just wondering what to do when we were all offered free tickets for a speedway meeting that was about to start just down the road. So off we went to the speedway. Yet again the sun shone down and we had a glorious after noon watching the races.  

We arrive back at the site in time to get ready for dinner and make are way down at the restaurant. Dinner consisted of a potato and ham dish which was very filling. The entertainment for the night consisted of a disco and a famous female Finnish blues singer, both of them were very good. Kai Virta the president of the Finnish Indian club made a speech and announced that 123 people attended, 73 Indians, 38 of them from Sweden, 9 from Finland and 12 other countries, had attended the rally. We all had a very good nightís entertainment and stayed up very late talking, drinking and socializing 

Sunday 1 st Aug 1999 
Up the next morning for breakfast and filled the rest of the morning browsing through the stalls of new and old Indian parts. The rally officially ended at 14.00, but we were due to stay on for another two days. So after watching a lot of bikes depart we looked round for something to fill in our afternoon. Kai informed us of a very big car and motorbike auto jumble that was being held in a town about 65 kilometers away. So we decided to take a run out to see it. The road was quiet as seems to be the norm for Finland, the sun beamed down hotter than ever and we had a good run out. The auto jumble was not just stalls but at least 200 cars, trucks and bubble cars, as well as 200 bikes, were lined up around a huge race track. Outside the track were literally hundreds of stalls selling myriads of parts, new and old. The problem we had was the heat, the temperature was in the thirties and I had to buy a hat to stop the skin on the top of my head from burning. A nice afternoon out. We returned to the site a bit weary, had a shower and met Tony Leenes and the Dutch contingent in the bar for dinner and a few beers and got to bed very late. 

Monday 2 nd Aug 1999 
Up and packed as this was the day we had to leave. We said our good byes and set off to make our way down to Helsinki and return the hire bikes. We had to find a hotel next to the airport as our flight left very early in the morning of the next day. This done we made are way to the hire shop and handed back the bikes. This left us with the afternoon to fill in so Jess came up with the idea of a boat trip around the harbor. So we booked up and spent a very pleasant few hours cruising around. Then dinner in a traditional Finnish restaurant and back to the hotel by taxi and off to bed for an early night. 

Tuesday 3 rd Aug 1999 
Our early morning call got us up, we had breakfast and got a taxi to the airport, our plane was on time and we set off for Heathrow. It was pleasant flight and we made our connection to Manchester in plenty of time. At Manchester another taxi to the hotel to pick up our cars and off home.  
A good time was had by all and thanks to Elaine for putting up with Jess and me without complaining. 

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 View from our cabin at the
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 Nice Four
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 'Nother nice Four
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A Chief all the way from 
the Carribean!
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 Queuing for the ride out
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John (left) and swiss Indian
rider Robert in Finland
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 Nice Scout
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Army Scout (also nice!)
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 Serious luggage!
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Belt drive single
More pictures from 
the Rally here