Tuesday, August 22, 2006

John's Motorbike race

I mentioned in an earlier blog a elderly engineer [now dead] who I got to know briefly before he died. He had stories of his life that went back to the beginning of the 20th century. One of his story was about his time in the middle east during the first world war.

As a young British soldier he was sent to the middle east. For a bit of fun the troops would play with their motor bikes. One thing was racing them as fast as they could over the sandy roads on the outskirts of town. One day John needed some extra ummph to win a race he knew he couldn't win using just the standard fuel. So using his knowledge of chemicals he made some acetylene which I think burns with a smokey yellow flame. But if you mix it with oxygen it can burn a hole in metal. This is the oxy-acetylene torch.
John somehow managed to get his acetylene mixed in with his regular fuel. I think he did it while riding the bike and leaning over the air intake and either tipping or infusing using a cloth. The result of which was to give the bike an almighty boost. Not for long but enough to accelerate away from the competition just long enough to win his race.

I think they also used it to frighten the beejezus out of the pillion passengers when they hit the gas and took off, sometimes leaving their back seat rider on their arse.

He told these stories with a dead straight face, only an occasional twinkle in the eye. But he would manage to pop in the name of Lawrence of Arabia as a fellow traveller and risk taker.

I think it made me realise just how lucky they all were to get out of there in one piece.