June 04, 2013 GMT
Melbourne To Donington Bicycle Epic

It's been a while since the previous entry.
Well, Melbourne to Donington is a long way.
There may be a glut of postings now, playing catch-up.
(You wait weeks for a bus then four hundred and seven arrive at once.

That is - the 407 bus, it takes me to Caterham or Croydon whenever I fancy using my bus pass).

Back to business - a couple of weeks ago I was juggling motorbike, bicycle, car and train. All possibilities for a big adventure travel event.
For a fleeting moment of madness, airplanes also featured.
So what was this 'Epic' with the array of transport possibilities?

It was this:

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(from the HU advert)

It's at the Donington Park campgrounds, which are next to the Donington GP racetrack, next to East Midlands Airport, next to East Midlands station, next to the M1.
There's probably a canal thereabouts too.

Back in 2009, when Caroline, Beau and I used this annual event as a dummy run of sorts for Africa, it was in Ripley, Derbyshire. That venue was becoming too small so this year it moved lock, stock and barrel to the big campsite at Donington Park.

But right now I don't have a motorbike on the road that can carry camping gear. The Yamaha awaits an MOT - soon I hope, soon. (See later posts for where all the time has gone - am hoping to have a bit of time to blog about it all).
And the Aprilia, which is gloriously on the road, can only carry me, my door keys, and a newspaper - just about.
So I had the idea to cycle there. It's very much a bicycle event as well.
And I can carry full camping gear on my Marinoni bicycle.
The last time was from Canada to Mexico in 2001, so it's about time I did it again.

Now, the British weather in May ("Farmers fear unkindly May, Frost by night and hail by day" - no bicycles there then) isn't really conducive to pedalling comfortably from Whyteleafe to Donington, particularly with a wet long-range forecast, so I needed a plan to minimise the drenchings.
Perm any 1 from train, car, airplane.
"Train!" I thought, with easy access to St. Pancras and the line which stops at all sorts of places approaching East Midlands Airport. But sadly, a bicycle on a regional line isn't an easy, convenient and carefree proposition, even with my OldCodger's Rail Card.

So I toddled off with bicycle inside car, arriving at the Donington Hotel on the Monday before, planning to pedal away to Rutlandshire and beyond and return for the first day of the HUBB UK on the Thursday. (Car left at hotel).
But rain - lots of it - interrupted play.

I set off dodging downpours and headed along the nearby Sustrans cycle network, only to find the first section is called The Cloud Trail.
Not an auspicious name for the first miles of cycling during a rainy week.

The trail stretches out ahead towards Loughborough.

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Here, it's a disused railway line.

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With strange and ethnic signposts along the way.

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Black clouds hang over the Cloud Trail.

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Beyond the disused railway, it gets hilly.

On the far side of Loughborough towards Rutland Water (which I had hoped to reach), the clouds formed up and the rain fell, right outside the Farmers Den Teashop. A pretty good oasis for the hours and hours of wet rain that ensued.
Specially as there was this amazing private museum full of old preserved vehicles, fascinating gems and a few - err - 'collectibles'.
In the workshop a big old Austin was in the process of restoration, and these - sidecars are always a curiosity:

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A Sunbeam.

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A BSA V-twin.

It was a handy touch of serendipity as the rain went on and on, and the tea flowed. Ditto for another customer and his mum who took refuge at the same table as me, solely because he was hopelessly lost.
"We don't know this area and I set my sat-nav to find a supermarket. But it sent us down a dead-end road that ended in someone's muddy yard. Then I saw this place."
He turned out to be quite a serious cyclist so we swapped a few tales.

A reader used to be a repairer and builder of industrial lawn mowers (now retired). So here's a photo for him.

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Outside, a good splashing of puddles, and a Gilbert Scott red telephone kiosk. Yep, I worked inside those a few times.

What's more (unashamed reminiscence here), back in 1965 I spent about 3 days in the Duroglass factory in Blackhorse Lane Walthamstow (anyone remember that?) watching with great amazement the Polish glassblowers making the globes seen here atop the petrol pumps. With my supervisor we were supposed to be moving a telephone between offices, a 3-hour job in those old-technology days. But we were kept mesmerised for day after day by the huge oil-fired furnace operation (three 8-pot different colours, one 2-pot, one day tank, 3 continuous tanks), on a massive stage from which the six glassblowers would dangle their steel tubes with the heavy molten glass globes spinning on the end, to achieve the right shape. It was a furious rage of fire, colour and acrobatic whirling of hot glass.
The factory also made oven glass. So proud were the glassblowers of their work, and the fact that they had entertained us for all that time, that they boxed up a huge array of dishes, pans and casseroles for each of us to cart away home.
I think the main thing I learnt there was not so much about how to shift a telephone extension, but how to fill out the timesheet so a job of 3 hours took 3 days. I think it was just a matter of the spelling.

So the Farmers Den Teashop was a pretty good place to spend a rainy afternoon

The rain eased up about closing time enough to go looking for a B&B.

Which was here, right next to the Grand Union Canal and River Soar.

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There - I said there'd be a canal somewhere....

Dodging the showers the next day, aiming to arrive at the campsite for the start of the HUBB show, I found Belton Church coming into scenic view from a leafy lane somewhere north-west of Loughborough.

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And somewhere along the disused railway part of the Cloud Trail, it's only 10 miles to Derby. There's a thought.....

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But the HUBB called, and we arrive for registration,
handing over a couple of bottles of bubbly for the Prostate Cancer UK Grand Raffle.

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The tent is pitched, the sun appears, the tea is on and the campground fills up.

But not with bicycles - see later.

Now, the title of this roving and rambling essay needs explaining a bit. I did indeed complete a 'Melbourne To Donington Bicycle Epic'.
Here's the Melbourne-Donington road, with Breedon-on-the-Hill Church in the distance.

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It's two miles long, and I cycled there and back, to visit amongst other places, Melbourne Hall and its ancient mill pond.

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And the animals gazing over the wall watching the geese.

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And the church from an inner courtyard.

And an ATM but you know what they look like.

Back at the HUBB campground, the Expedition Vehicle Show was in full swing on the Saturday. The categories were 'Most Travelled', 'Best Modifications', and 'On A Tight Budget'.

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'MyMarinoni' pokes a front wheel just ahead of a line of motorbikes in the show.

Well, the judges had a hell of a job selecting the winners.
Some of these bikes had been right around the world, some many times, on the road for as long as 14 years. How do they rank such a distinguished field?

At the other extreme there was difficulty in the bicycle class.
Only one bicycle was entered......
In the categories of 'Most Travelled' and 'On A Tight Budget'.

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I won both.....

Not a proper competition really. The next morning I met a cyclist in amongst the trade tents.
"Why didn't you enter the show yesterday?" I enquired.
"I was one of the judges....."
Oh dear.
It turned out that 3 or 4 other cyclists arrived on Thursday. I had chatted to one of them. But they all left on Saturday morning, squeezing in another mission somewhere.
My two prizes were very nice, and the Prostate Cancer UK charity, beneficiaries of this HUBB event, have a big cycling event in Exeter soon.
So those goodies are now added to the prizes for that event where there should be more than one competitor in the field.

A couple of entries in the motorbike class:

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The Honda Africa Twin of Ian Coates

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I'll invite you to do what it says on his right hand pannier....

You should find this amongst tons of other stuff.

And this

I was selling raffle tickets on Friday and Saturday and it was an honour to have Ian buy his from me. As far as I know, he didn't win anything, but I somehow think that's not a problem for him.....
Specially as he was the outright winner of the 'Most Travelled' motorcycle category.
He's off to the Isle of Man TT now, and then riding to Mongolia, and then..... he doesn't know.

Another entry was this

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Ed March's Honda C90 right next to my Marinoni.

This is Ed's overland ride back from Malaysia last year, on the bike above.

He had the audience in tears and stitches during his presentation about his recent Germany to North Cape trip on the same bike, camping, in February.
Watch out for the Youtube when it appears, specially his little adventure in Northern Norway involving the steel pole of a roadsign, a tongue, and about 20 degrees of frost.....

Here's the big group photo

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Which only leaves a couple of photos from the end of the event, the Grand Sending Off of four adventurers, two on their round-the-world trip, and two on their trip to Mongolia.

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What a Great Weekend!!

Posted by Ken Thomas at June 04, 2013 03:56 PM GMT

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