The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
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Story of my ride down to Tan Hill for the HUMM meet there last week. P2 to follow toot sweet.
I was somewhere around Bracebridge on the edge of Lincoln when the lethargy began to take hold. The Cub is many things, but it isn’t exciting to ride around England’s grey and unpleasant hinterlands.
The Horizons Unlimited Northern meet had been organised for the weekend of the 14th November, at a place called Tan Hill in North Yorkshire. I had heard of North Yorkshire, I vaguely knew where it was; surely it sat on the shoulder of Lincolnshire? It couldn’t be a particularly arduous ride? I’d never heard of Tan Hill, neither had Google maps, something which cannot be a good sign. If Google doesn’t know something, then can it actually exist in this day and age? As a result I had a rough map, showing the North of England on one convenient A5 sheet. Something akin to trying to navigating Russia with a tourist beach towel. Never mind that the area that should show Tan Hill, only showed blank green, and the closest marked place was more than 50 miles away in either direction. How hard could it be?
So many naïve questions, so many half assumptions. If I am going around the world I need to curb this naïve enthusiasm, and stop this assuming. It only ever makes an ‘ass,’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’
The morning of the 14th dawned dry, and as the sun came up, it brought with it a horrible hangover. I rolled out of bed, and kicked a pint glass of water on to the floor, if only I had drank it the night before, instead of watering my carpet, it might have stopped my head from falling off from the inside out.
Change littered my carpet. As I stumbled around my room, the Queen’s cold face kept sticking to my clammy foot and I kept trying to kick her off. I’m sure some archaic law would sentence me to hang for it, but I couldn’t face bending down to peel the sweaty coins off of my cadaverish hoof, for fear of my head exploding, so I went for one last kick to try and remove them. CLANG! The pain rushed up my nervous system and punched me in the head before I had even realised what happened. I then got assaulted by a volley of books falling from my bookcase, pelting my head and shoulders as they lemminged from the top shelf. I stood in my pants, little toe throbbing where it had split from the rest of my foot around the side of the bookcase, wishing the day was 3 hours younger, and wishing I wasn’t about to jump on the back of my Cub.
A quick cigarette and cup of tea breakfast made life substantially better. In slow time, I threw panniers and top box on the back of the bike, a job made easier by the recent very home made single seat conversion, and tried to think about leaving. I fiddled with straps, played with bungees, changed my jacket twice, had another cup of tea, and then tried to think about leaving again.
After a few mental run throughs of the whole leaving thing, I finally swung a leg over the Cub, and kicked the start. The engine laughed at me. I kicked it again. And again. Surely there could be no mechanical problem with the immortal Cub? I performed all the checks in my mechanical repertoire. Tyres kicked; still made of rubber. Oil checked; still black, still oily. Chain; still on. Choke; on. What on earth could it be after all that is checked? I sat back on the bike to try the kick start again; no response. I did a couple of paddling steps forward and tried to bump start; cough, wheeze, dead.
By this point I was sweating, I needed to get moving, I was far too overdressed for this lark. I looked down at the fisher price dash, looking at its chunky numerals and dial; a seventies vision of how everything was going to look in the 21st century. Jackpot! The fuel needle had was buried deep in the red end of the gauge, that would be a fairly solid reason for the lack of enthusiasm the Cub had displayed for forward momentum. A quick trip back to the garage for a fuel can was a simple fix for the malady. I also threw a 5 litre jerry in the top box to give me a greater range, and make refuelling quicker than stopping at a petrol station. It also meant that I could accurately find just how far a tank of unleaded would take me before the kitten died of thirst.
Fuelled and packed, second time lucky, I made it out of the yard and on to the road proper. First leg; Boston to Lincoln along the terminally boring A17, then the A15 through Lincoln to the Humber Bridge.
As I set off, the early morning fog was clearing while the people of Boston were waking up to go to work. Well, some were, the majority were probably on their way to the offie or the job centre. The Cub buzzed quietly against the bustle of the town, as we bounced down cracked and pitted roads down by the ports. It is the only major port still operating in the East Midlands, and despite apparent dereliction, it is the major source of income to the town. The other USPs are that it is home to the Boston Stump, the biggest parish church in England, and the Pilgrim Fathers who tried to escape from Boston in 1607 with the intent of finding religious freedom in the New World. They were caught in a sting, locked up, and they failed to get away until 1630. Despite all this history, it is probably more famous for being the fattest town in Britain, and the one with the largest proportional immigrant population, probably the one with the most fat immigrants too. Riding through, you don’t need to know the stats, eyes alone can register the huge number of waddling fatties, swinging their guts before them as they wheeze their way down the street. Foreign tongues are almost as common to hear as British, and many of the shops serve exclusively foreign food. As a by product of the high immigrant population, it is also one of the BNP’s strongest footholds.
I have travelled the Boston – Lincoln road more times than I care to count, and it never gets less boring. By the time I had reached the outskirts of Lincoln it was time for a cigarette and a skip around, to allay the wiggling and jiffling for a few dozen more miles. Lincoln is a pretty and friendly city, with a magnificent cathedral, and more importantly, some of the best pubs in the country. It still has plenty of that dying breed of pub, the one that doesn’t play music at deafening volumes, and refuses to sell cocktails. Pubs with more wood than plastic, and dozens of s that you can’t see through, Unfortunately for my hangover, I wasn’t stopping in Lincoln, as soon as my cherry had touched my butt, it was time to hop on the Cub for the bimble to the Humber.
Coming out of the back of Lincoln, through the out of town retail parks and industrial estates that seem to have sprouted up identically in every city in the country, the ones that make me wish I had access to a big ass dirty bomb, I found my mind drifting. It always happens to me, after a few dozen miles, my concentration lapses, and I find myself lost, both mentally, and usually physically, when I realise that I have gone four junctions further than I was meant to; it makes the adventure. My body and bike were definitely in Lincoln, my head was in the heart of Africa, drifting through billowy colonial outposts, sleeping rough on sandy slopes, being held at gun point by smacked up kids in Man United shirts in disunited nowheres.
‘You terrible, terrible bastard! Ouch, that really bloody hurts!’ I was smashed out of my reverie by a rude spray of neat anti freeze straight into my open visor. A car going in the opposite direction had picked the perfect time to clean his window, and his badly set up jets had shit shot the fluid across his window and right into my eyes. I screeched the overladen kitten up beside the road and rubbed at my eyes while unleashing verbal death on alcohol based window cleaning fluids. Well; that woke me up nicely, time to keep wondering and wandering.
Not five miles down the road, I had lapsed into daydreams again, when I looked up at the sky, into the most bizarre cloud formations I had ever seen. The cotton wool scribbles looked as if a gigantic child had doodled them in blunt chalk against the steel slate sky. Delicate and soaring, the edges of the floating tendrils had bled into their backdrop as ink dropped in water, the furthest ones almost totally melted back into their vaporous kin. The trails towered and twisted in sinuous loops, knotting themselves together and losing their starts and ends in one huge tangled mass; like looking into God’s draws, and finding his string gets as tangled as everyone else’s. Looking up at the crazy clouds, and trying to concentrate on not hitting the car in front, my ears suddenly exploded with the clamour and after pressure of two turbine engines blasting above me at tree height. Either side of the road, two of the British Red Arrow’s Hawks had screamed past at speeds far in excess of Cub cruising speed. The jets spiralled into the distance, climbing and cork-screwing together, locked in a deadly dance where margin for error is measured in milliseconds, before disappearing over the horizon in a stream of vapour. For just half a moment, the Cub and I had been flying in formation with two planes from the world’s foremost aerial acrobatic team. As they passed me, my red and white steed was part of their team, my 3 horses flanked by their fellow red and white liveried 1200.
I passed a number of signs for Scunthorpe, but only passed tantalisingly close, within 5 miles. Such a pity, I have always lived in the same county, but never visited. I have no particular urge to see anything in particular there; I just want to put the 2nd to the 5th letters in its name. I feel I could put myself there and answer the question ‘who put the ‘c***’ in Scunthorpe?’
The Humber Bridge soon loomed to the South of Hull, its giant concrete supports sticking out of the ooze of the river, linked by 43000 miles of flowing rollercoaster wire. The wind coming across the estuary blustered along the river, and made crossing the bridge on a 70 kg moped a task for the foolish or brave. Like any suspension bridge, it sways; an unsettling feeling on a bike, 3 metres left to right may not sound like a lot, but to me, that is a long way for 480000 tonnes of concrete to swing around suspended by wire. The view from the bridge is incredible, only marred by the amount of effort spent trying to wrestle the errant Cub back on line. Both upriver, and down towards the estuary, vast expanses of mud flats are visible, melting into Lincolnshire on one side, and Yorkshire on the other. It is possible to wade across the mile of mud; some crazy fool has performed the task twice, once on the show ‘Top Gear.’ Today however, I didn’t fancy wading with the Cub in tow, so felt quite happy using the bridge and merely looking out at the slimy sandbanks and muddy mires. As I crossed, the sun was fighting to make its presence felt through the thick clouds, and the river became a blinding mirror underneath me. Intermittently, factories and warehouses on the far bank caught the rays, and flashed like lighthouse beacons guiding me into Yorkshire. Looking out at the muddy estuary, I couldn’t help but think of lazy wasted days as a child, spent looking for King John’s treasure in the swampy Wash estuary, 75 miles South. I always harboured fantasies of being the one who could stumble across the hoard of unimaginable worth, lost 700 years previously by the foolish and unlucky King John, somewhere in those treacherous marshes.
I was under the impression that the bridge was free for motorcycles, and there was only a toll for cars. I was wrong. I reached the booth expecting to be waved straight through, but the hollow faced automaton sat behind the glass stopped me, ‘£1.20,’ he monotoned at me. ‘Shit, sorry mate, I didn’t realise it was a toll bridge for bikes.’ I blustered, hoping that he would take pity and let me sneak the Cub around the edge of the barrier. Not this maudlin gent, he was going to extract the vital quid off of me, he just repeated his demand for cash in that deadpan voice. I begrudgingly took my glove off, undid my jacket, and fumbled under it looking for change somewhere in the bottom of my fleece. The change had fallen right to the end of my pocket, and I had to root around, making myself sweat, while I grasped and grunted like a pervert in a pants draw. Cars were drawing up behind me, and I heard the tell tale sound of an impatient honk behind me. ‘Surely the attendant is going to get bored soon and let me by?’ But no, he just carried on staring at, or possibly somewhere through me, until I found the requisite change, and he allowed me to use his barrier. To avoid annoying the drivers behind me any more than I already had, I freewheeled the bike past the barrier, and parked up to sort myself out. Gloves back on, jackets and pockets closed up, I was ready to start leg two. The going was good, I was in Yorkshire now, it was barely midday, and half my journey was almost done.
Only a few miles past the bridge, with Hull behind me, the Cub whimpered and gave a rheumy cough. A few yards more and she hiccupped and rolled to a halt. 89 miles from home, my 3 quid’s worth of petrol had ran out. Quite fortunate for my mathematical skills, for the sake of simplicity we will call that 30 miles for only 1 of your British pounds. I took the petrol can from my topbox, glad to be getting rid of some of the top heavy load that had been causing me to flip flop left to right, turning corners into jerky fifty pence piece angles. Of course, I didn’t want to pour it straight into the bike, so I took the opportunity to pour half of it down my legs and into my gloves, and rode off feeling pleasantly high, but nervous about lighting my next cigarette.
The next series of roads passed me by almost unnoticed, I believe I was there at the time, but I must have been in the zone, I can’t even remember their names. The next thing I knew, I was in York. Or Eboracum, or Eoforwic, or Jorvic, depending on which century you arrived in the walled capital of the North. My only memories of the city are of childhood visits to the Viking museum there, with its waxwork warriors and authentic shitty smells, so to me, that is the smell of York. I wasn’t visiting museums today; I still had miles to eat if I was ever going to get to Tan Hill, however, getting to York was definitely breaking the back of the journey, and the fates and the weather still favored Cub pilots.
After York, my A5 map became a little on the useless side. Passing into the North, the roads seemed to peter out into blank spaces, was there really so little in North Yorkshire? My only waypoints were Thirsk, and North Allerton, places previously unknown to me. I merely had to link the two up, and I would be within a stones throw of my destination.
I found myself with bags of time when I pulled into overtly upper middle-class North Allerton. The kind of town where curtains twitch continuously as occupants keep a vigil to ensure next door’s Range Rover is still the model down from theirs. I still had three hours before I was due at the meet, so decided I would indulge in a spot of shopping before continuing. I needed a few vital supplies if I was going for a weekend away. Apparently North Allerton is one of the most expensive towns to live in Ooop North; I figured when in Rome…do as the Romans, and correspondingly decided to pop into Morrissons for my essentials. How very decadent in this era of impecuniousness. I stacked my shopping basket with gin, tobacco, rizlas, and several tins of sausage and beans; as I said, I was only stopping for the bare bones basics.
At the checkout, after being looked at with suspicion, as someone who was oh so painfully not local, I asked for directions to Tan Hill. ‘Please could you tell me where Tan Hill is?’ ‘Eh, what ye seh?’ The saggy woman behind the counter viewed me with something in between confusion and pure distaste. ‘Please could you tell me where Tan Hill is?’ This didn’t even elicit an immediate answer, she just stared into me, as if she was trying to translate my crazy fish language. Instead she turned around to the woman working at the adjacent till, ‘Eh, Julie, this kid wants t’ know where something is.’ She looked back at me while her colleague was finishing up and turning, and translated for me ‘I don’t know what ye want, so shez gonna tell ye.’ Thanks, I obviously needed that, as the foreigner that I suddenly seem to be. Julie seemed to be more helpful, and although she didn’t know where Tan Hill was, she did at least not bother to pretend that she couldn’t understand an accent that didn’t reduce every vowel to an ‘eh’ noise.
Julie pointed me to customer services, where I was studiously ignored, even after a politely coughed ‘excuse me.’ The bitter looking middle aged divorcee in a tabard was far too busy telling her ditzy young colleague about her ‘tropical moments’ to attend to my trivial questions. If it is a customer service to inform all and sundry of your ongoing menopausal state, she was at the top of her game. Her legally blonde victim so obviously wanted to get out of the conversation, but every time she tried to split it and help me, she was dragged back into talk of hot flushes and elephantine ankles. She eventually managed to disengage, but proved herself as useful as a C90 on a trackday. ‘Please could you tell me where Tan Hill is?’ ‘Tan Hill, is that a place?’ She giggled and bounced so effusively that I couldn’t help but like her. ‘Yes, it is around here somewhere, it has the country’s highest pub.’ Her eyes flashed with childlike glee, ‘wow, the highest pub in the country, I would LOVE to go there!’ She tittered, and simpered, breathily like the token sub normal in a Disney film, and I realised that this customer wasn’t going to get any useful services from this counter. I left her in a state of excitement that somewhere so magical could be in existence.
With no better information, I simply struck out in the direction of the moors, hoping that eventually some chance of fate would lead me to bimble the right way. I stopped in several places, and eventually found people who had actually heard of this mythical place; I had begun to think that maybe it was all an elaborate hoax. The next semi habited place along my search was Leyburn, a wonderful one horse village, of the kind that seems to be made from history and painted in watercolours. The kind of village that only normally exists on chocolate boxes. It was just a pity that someone appeared to have stolen their horse, and all the residents were out looking for it. It was deserted. After some looking around, I found a tourist shop, packed with all the things you never wanted that old people love to buy. Paperweights, letter openers, snow baubles, tea towels, beach balls and pencil toppers. For starters, barring professional fraudsters, who ever uses letter openers in this day and age, let alone novelty ones with pretty little villages painted on the hilt? Why would you want a beach ball in the heart of the middle of the centre of the country, and who ever wanted a tea towel featuring a sketch map of North Yorkshire?
My appeal is almost non-existent to women of my own age, on the other hand, middle aged women of a certain character almost always seem to love me. Fortunately for me, the shop was staffed by two lovely mumsy dears, who couldn’t do enough to help. The conversation was measured in breathy exclamations and back and forth bickering as they argued over the best way to send me. They batted ideas and directions between themselves in good natured squabbling, but they agreed on so little that they couldn’t send me in any one direction. I would have been better off asking a horse with two heads which way was forwards. ‘You want to take the road that gets narrower at the church and carry on until you hit the church which has some missing tiles, then you have a roundabout, go straight on. No, go left, but go left right left, then you have the church.’ ‘No, that’s not right, he wants to go right at the church. ‘No, you’ve got the wrong church, you mean the church that holds the good mass at Christmas don’t you?’ ‘Oooh, yeah, that one, the one with the priest who everyone thought was having an affair with Mrs Adams?’ It went on. And on… The light was fading outside, and the weather was getting worse. The impasse came to an end when the younger of the two women took up one of the novelty letter openers from the counter. I thought the argument was taking a turn for the worse, but she reached up above her, and cut a tea towel down from a rack. She laid the tea towel out and showed me on the sketch map exactly where I needed to go. Jackpot. I was within spitting distance; all I had to do was get over the top of the moors and I was there. With many thanks from me, and much imploring from them to ‘stay safe and be careful’ from them, I took my leave. Apparently novelty tea towels and letter openers are useful; I shall never prematurely judge tat shops again.
The clouds were gathering, the sky had turned angry above me, and sun could barely make itself seen. As I continued my journey, each person I stopped to check my bearings with gave me the same spiel, ‘ooh, that’s a long way from here, cross’t moors too, I’d b’ careful if twas you.’ One kind gent, dressed in the classic country wax jacket and flat cap, even went as far as to tell me ‘good luck, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you make it.’ What was the big deal? I was in England, surely it couldn’t be that bad?
I rounded a corner, and suddenly found myself on a moor. The wind, which had been blustery down in the valley, was now a full blown gale. A light rain had also started to spatter my visor. I hadn’t even blinked, and I had gone from being in a cutesy stone built scene of middle England bliss, to being in the midst of nowhere. Granite cottages and churches unchanged since the Victorians winked out of existence, and were replaced by moor and cliff unchanged since horny mastodons romped on them.
The stormy air was whipping straight across the heath to my left, and dropping down the precipice to my right, before smashing off the rocky slope on the other side of the valley. Mounted on a 70 kilogramme bike, it was like being caught in a washing machine. The maelstrom lashed rain from every angle, and the gusts dragged my bike on their whim, regardless of my inputs. The stony heath climbing off before me offered no shelter or solace, almost barren save for wiry grasses and tenacious shrubs, and the weather battered rock face merely soaked up the inhospitable conditions with imperturbable insolence. The heartless heath and the stone cold cliff lay as dead and inert to the squalls as Bronte’s character; I could imagine his lonely ghost out there in the indigo semi dark, calling for his long lost Cathy.
It was only eleven miles to my destination, ‘give or tek a bit, mubbe bout ten minitts on t’bike?’ the prematurely aged woman pushing a fat child far too big for its pram had informed me. Her face was beaten ten years older by a lifetime outside, and her eyes had the sheen of a heavy drinker, indeed, her shopping bags seemed to contain more whiskey than water. She was friendly, and continued to give me some insider information in a conspiratorial tone. ‘I wuddn’ bother if I was ye, barlady is a bitch, rude as arseholes, sed she didn’ want a busy pub, so shez sellin’ t’ place.’ Maybe the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow was actually a crock of shit?
Those eleven miles took the best part of two hours. The mathematicians amongst you may notice that is an average of around five miles an hour.
The gradients became more severe, and the gales wrapped themselves around me. One moment the blasts were throwing the bike across the road, the next they were catching it head on. Each gust from the front made the bike tangibly slower, building up on each other and sapping its power, they forced me to completely abandon third gear. The gradient got still steeper, winding up into a sky full of hand grenade clouds. I had to abandon second gear. The rain crashed across the road, turning the skinny track into a river in places, and swamp where four by fours had lashed mud inches deep. First gear, Cub screaming, I was frozen into a crampy rigour atop of it, clutching on for dear life. I know the accepted wisdom is to relax, and let the bike go with the wind, but I believe that is for real bikes, with more than four square inches of rubber on the ground, and the weight to not blow off into the distance. The sidewinds at points were fierce enough to move the front wheel laterally across the deck, without lifting it. Lights continued to whiz past me, as showboating cars and trucks waved their horsepower in my face, before shooting off into the gloom.
The miles ticked down slowly, at points it would have been faster to walk. The idea crossed my mind, throw the bike in the ditch and continue on foot. Lights kept appearing ahead of me in the dark, but they blinked and smiled at me like shy sirens, and would then disrobed themselves, and show themselves to be farms, or little cottages, or simple wishful thinking; was this pub ever going to materialise?
I wanted to lay down for a couple of minutes. The heath was so dramatic looking, and the views so stunning; all I wanted to do was have a fag and appreciate the scenery for a second. Never mind that a cigarette wouldn’t have lasted 5 seconds in the storm. I was looking around for a sheltered spot, maybe behind a wall that would give enough shelter to roll without spreading papers and tobacco to the wind, when the Cub died.
I kicked it (kick started, I didn’t just boot it down a precipice.) It fired up first time, but when I tried to move forwards, it died again. Kicked again, move forwards, died again. I walked it to the top of the incline I was on, and saw that it was downhill all the way to…God of Gods, Hamdu Lillah, the pub was at the bottom of the slope, with a gaggle of adventure bikes clustered like penguins in the Northern winds. At the top of the slope, I kicked it again, and the bike purred into life, and moved forwards happy as larry. Poor kitten, it just couldn’t cope with the gradient and the wind any more, the wee mite was merely tired. With my excitement, and my numbed body, I cracked the throttle open, and was promptly smacked in the chest by a gust of wind. Simple physics, aided by the overweighted rear, threw my front wheel up in the air, and I had to quickly jump off the back to hold the bike, now vertical with its nose sniffing in the biblically charged sky. That would have been typical, nearly two hundred miles, and I throw the bike down the road in the last two hundred metres. I had made it.
Here is the next installment, sorry, I'm doing quite a bit of freelance stuff at the mo, so haven't had time to write much (this is in 'work' time,) so it is coming in serialisation form. I will finish the report eventually. Glad some of you have enjoyed it; thanks for all the positive comments. Andy, I will give you a PM when I get in from work.
I squeaked into the car park, and pulled up in between a mighty looking BM and a Serow, which although not so mighty; still dwarfed the Cub. The gravel car park was so uneven and wind lashed that people had taken to strapping their bikes to the floor. I took advantage of two KTMs that had been pegged into the gravel and hid my kitten in their lee; I guess the Serow pilot had the same idea. I would say it was a pleasantly symbiotic relationship, but if I am honest, the Cub was a mere parasite. I had nothing to offer in return for the stewardship of the lanky Austrians.
I left the bike, and went for a quick reconnaissance of the camp site. If I learned one thing from the army ‘time spent in recce is never wasted.’ Surely the army is always right? Well; if you ignore Iraq, or Afghan, or friendly fire, or kit issue, or cutbacks, or general policy.
The camp site was not what I expected. I have walked across mine fields better suited to placing tents. The grass I had hoped for was generally rock, and where there actually was topsoil, sheep had shat it into submission. Even so; there were around ten tents that had managed to pitch, but already some of these looked as if they were about to capitulate to the elements. Poles were bending, canvas was stretching. One tent stood alone looking indestructible; if slightly unusual in the dales setting; an incredible orange wigwam/tepee beast. The wind could barely wobble it. I have no idea how long it took to erect, and how practical it would be to pack on a bike; but it bloody well laughed at the best the North could throw at it. A few sensible people had erected proper mountain tents, which still stood strong and stoical. There were also several quick erect jobbies, looking like barflies at chuck out time.
After my recce, which took longer than expected, due to finding nowhere even slightly suitable, I returned to the bike and wheeled it into the field. I pushed across the wet and shit strewn mud to my chosen site; in the shelter of a jutting outcrop of rock, with a modicum of partially flat land. The only thing that perturbed me was that nobody had already stolen the plot, why would such a sheltered haven be unclaimed real estate?
As a rule, I like to park the bike somewhere stable and flat, stick pucks under the centre-stand, and hang my poncho off of the bars and backbox. It makes a nice sheltered lean-to, and keeps the bike dry too. I tried this.
The wind was so angry, and the ground so unsettled that my normal tack failed entirely. The Cub would just not stay upright. I had taken all of my luggage off, and had pucked the stand, but the wind just kept catching the bike. I had taken the poncho out of my panniers, but it flapped around like a broken mainsail. If I had let go for one second; it would have dashed off into the night, flapping like a huge green stingray. I struggled with bungees, trying to wrap them around the bike and pin the poncho down so I could quit my death grip on it, but each time the wind blasted, the bike fell back at me. With one hand on the poncho, and one trying to stand the bike up, time and time again I found myself in an impossible position. Eventually, I got the poncho properly fastened to the bars and the topbox, and only had to pin the rear end down to complete my lean-to. Again and again, I pinned the back end of the poncho down, and the wind trap pulled the tiny Cub over, until finally I just sat down with it, joining it prostrate in the mud. **** it.
I picked the stricken kitten up, and wheeled it back to the car park, the attached poncho flapping like a flag of surrender. I parked up, and undid the bungees, I took the poncho, rolled it up, and put it back in the panniers. Then I went for a pint.
I walked into the pub with my tail hanging between my legs. Bollocks, I had been looking forward to a good night camping, and all those bastards had managed it. ****. My first HUBB meet (excluding the erroneous trip to Brighton,) and I was going to show myself up as a completely useless Jesse. I didn’t even know who those bastards were, I hadn’t thought to ask for real names or faces; I only had internet nicknames and presuppositions to go on.
I walked straight to the bar; I needed it. I looked right as I went in, and there were a bunch of friendly looking people chatting. I thought about saying ‘hi’ as I went in, but then second guessed myself. How did I know who I was meant to be meeting? ‘Those people don’t have full and matching BMW textiles on,’ ‘they don’t have a single map or GPS on the table,’ ‘where are the KTM owners club badges?’ ‘Some of them look like people who might work in a bank, not ride across the world.’ ‘I just don’t bloody think they are adventure bikers, where are my bunch of bastard stereotypes, have they stood me up?’
At the bar, I capitulated. After my cursory failure to construct my shelter, I, (and I am embarrassed to admit it,) asked if they had any rooms for the night. The barman was positive, and told me ‘of course mate, we never turn anyone away, even if we haven’t got rooms, you can stay in the bar for a fiver.’ After my warnings down in the village, this hospitality was unexpected, but much welcomed. Unfortunately, a black shirted Cruella De Ville had been loitering in the corner and heard the barman welcome me. She stepped out of the shadows and barked, ‘sorry, we are full up, no rooms, and we don’t let the bar anymore.’ Her voice and demeanour would have impressed Himmler. The barman, looking like a dalmation about to lose his coat, or a Jew on the way to the showers, pleaded my case. ‘Look love, we’ve got plenty of space, he can double up with one of the other bikers in the bunk rooms?’ He phrased it as a question, rather than a statement, and I did not envy being in his skin.
Rather than answer, the blackshirt just let rip with an exasperated sigh, and stormed into the back of the house. ‘Sorry mate, we’ll find some space for you, I’ll speak to her in a bit. Can get you a drink?’ The amiable barman asked me the one question I had been begging to hear, and I immediately replied ‘oh yes, I’ll have a lager please.’ His amiability seemed to waver slightly, as if I had just made some slight against his honour. ‘We have Fosters, but nothing else,’ he replied in clipped tones. I suppose Fosters it is then. I was too famished and metrosexual to risk any real .
‘Birdy!’ I looked around, thinking that some strange coincidence had placed another Birdy in the same bar, but all eyes seemed to be on me. I didn’t know exactly where the call had come from, only that it was from a stranger. As I looked back to the table on the right of the door, half the people sat around it waved, and a ZZ bearded man echoed ‘Birdy,’ I smiled, and he looked back to the table of people in an ‘I told you so manner.’ I was impressed, first guess, one hundred percent correct. I picked up my drink and walked over to the table. If they weren’t HUMMers, then they must have extremely good intuition; either that or I had left my name tags hanging outside my jacket. You meet the nicest people on a Cub.
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Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
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"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
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Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or
to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and
knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.