Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sand Dancers Rally June 2010

I like lists, yes I know that those of you who don’t know me are now building a mental picture and that some part of that picture includes the description ‘sad tw*t’, but I can’t help it; I really, really do like lists.
I write lots of lists, shopping lists, things to do lists, and places to go lists. I enjoy the ‘Pavlovian’ way it can make me salivate before the event.

It’s Sunday evening, June 6th 2010, and as I relax on the settee after a great curry and a few beers at John and Christine’s house my attention is drawn to a discarded piece of paper on the lounge floor. It’s a list! Headed “Thursday Prep for Weekend”, it starts with ‘cut grass’ before progressing to ‘check tent out’, ‘wash and pack bike’, ‘pick up tickets’, ‘plan route’, etc but at no point does it say ‘break clutch cable, crash two bikes, loose riders, visit hospital, throw tools down the road or soak myself in beer ‘, it should have done really because by now I have enough experience of rally weekends to know that these are all possible and often probable at some point in proceedings. I should have put them all on the list!

Lets take a step back then to Thursday evening and Manny, Buckles and myself are in ‘Bluecoat’ downing pints of Abbots Ale, I know this is o.k. because the last thing that was written on the list was ‘7.30 meet Manny for beer’, so I’m prepared. What I’m not prepared for though is the absinth depth charge that Steve the manager of ‘SNAFU’ puts in my lager or the tequila’s that we drink in abundance for the rest of the evening.

I’m woken on Friday morning at 6 a.m. by the sun pouring through the curtains, this is a good sign, then I realise it’s because I’ve passed out on the sofa surrounded by left over pizza and not even shut the curtains, not a good sign. I struggle upstairs and manage to grab a couple of hours in a proper bed before raising Manny from the spare room where he had collapsed, at some point, fully clothed. After pouring strong coffee down us both we head out to the garage.

It’s 9.30 am and the sun beats down from a clear blue sky as Kathryn and I load up Bertha, my BMW R1150GS, Manny pulls his stripped down Moto Guzzi from the garage

and we await the arrival of Simon, my boss, who is making ‘Sand Dancers’ his first ever rally on his B.M.W. R1150GSA, Kevin and his son Ollie are next to pull in, he’s borrowed my Dad’s K100LT for the weekend, as his Ural isn’t quite back together yet , and it’s quite strange to see someone else aboard the old B.M.W.

At John and Christine’s house, 20 minutes later, it looks like we have our half of the team together. We are joined by Buckles and Diane together with Brian and Sharon, both on BMW R1200 Adventures. For Brian this is his first bike after passing his test and with full luggage, top box and tent it looks a handful.

John is aboard his Kawumph (Kawasaki W650)

and Christine is aboard her new Guzzi Breva now showing all of 350 miles on the Speedo.

I hate riding with this many people, you know you can never please the riding styles of all the group and given that the route is only in my head, I know it’s going to take a lot of mirror work to try and keep us all together.

We all head off north around 10.30 taking a route through Hemsworth, Ackworth and Pontefract before a breakfast stop at Squires Milk Bar at Newthorpe. It’s only 11.15 am on a Friday morning but there is already a nice selection of bikes and riders filling the car park. With bacon butties or full English stuffed away we remount and carry on to Tadcaster before Wetherby and then picking up the Roman road at Walton to Boroughbridge. It’s not far along here when I see Simon looming in my mirror, I pull over.

‘Manny’s stalled at the last junction, I think it’s a broken clutch cable ‘

Before I even have time to roll and smoke a cig, Manny’s Guzzi trundles into view, a clutch cable change to put a Formula One team to shame shows the benefits of routing a spare cable alongside the operational one but I should have put that on my list.

At Asenby just by the A168 I pull over again, the group have got spread out and I realise I’ve been getting a bit heavy handed with the throttle through the twists and turns of the last few miles. Slowly bikes come into view but no sign of John or Simon who were bringing up the rear, we wait a good ten minutes and Buck leads an expeditionary force to retrace our steps, he returns five minutes later with no sightings. I manage to get a signal on my phone. John answers straight away, never a good sign when you’re supposed to be riding a bike.

‘Where are you? ‘I enquire.

‘ Aaahh, Mmm, I’ve had a bit of an accident !, I’ve run up the arse end of Simon at the junction near Cundall, were both ok at the moment, but he may hit me fairly shortly !‘.

We all remount and head back, both bikes are parked on the junction, John is on his hand and knees trying to straighten the foot pegs and gear lever.

With a dented headlamp shell and crumpled front mudguard the Kawumph looks decidedly second hand.

It appears John had made the mistake of thinking Simon had gone when the fact that a large bright silver R1150GS Adventure BMW with full luggage was directly in front of him clearly shows he hadn’t. John had pushed Simon into the middle of the road but luckily Simon had stayed on board and no other vehicles were coming, John unfortunately hadn’t stayed on and ended up pinned under his bike. I think it took a while for Simon to decide that he really should pull him out. After a bit of work both bikes are rideable, the BMW looks hardly marked but closer examination reveals, bent pannier mounts, damaged exhaust system and a twisted rear subframe.

Oh well, these things happen and should be put on the list.

I decide that after Northallerton we should pick up the A19 through to Sunderland, really just to give people a bit of a rest, it’s a straight dual carriageway and should give both John and Simon a chance to check out their bikes without needing to throw them around the twisties.

At our next coffee stop the temperature is still rising and we take shade under the trees in the car park,

John is quiet and I go over and have a word, he’s just feeling a bit down and is pulling him self apart over his error but I guess he should cheer up coz Simon still hasn’t hit him yet !.

We carry on northward but given the different cruising speeds and the straight route to our destination I realise it is easier for everyone to push on at their own pace and meet up at the rally site. I sit at a steady 85mph before turning through Sunderland and there I notice a sudden drop in temperature as we pick up the coast road through Roker I’ve lost quite a few of the group on the A road blast and am surprised to see Simon, John, Brian and Sharon pull out at a junction just ahead of me at Whitburn, Simon’s GPS had kept him on the A19 a few junctions past the one I had turned off on. Only a mile or two further on we see the light house at Souter Point. It is here, in the grounds of this National Trust property, that the Tyne Phoenix MCC holds the Sand Dancers Rally. It’s a great venue on the flat bowling green length grass that surrounds the lighthouse with stunning views over the North Sea and up the coast past Marsden Grotto, the mouth of the Tyne and away north to Blyth. The edge of the field is a well fenced off cliff with a drop of a couple of hundred feet to the shingle beach and breakers below. I really hope the guys who put it up know there job, especially as the camping area is a slightly different layout to last year, when I enquire as to why I’m informed by one of the marshals that quite a large bit of the cliff has disappeared and a large area of the field we are in has been undermined by the wave action.

As we arrive I see Baggy ( BMW R1150R ) is already there with his tent up, he’s had a steady ride over from his home near Settle then a little further down the field we spot Tim ( Triumph Tiger ) and Tony, The Codfather on his Honda Pan European and surprise ,surprise there’s Pete Wheeler on his R1150 Adventure. Baggy pulls out his tent pegs and carries his tent over to the rest of us, were still missing Manny and Christine but as we start to unpack our tents Manny rolls onto the field alone and John’s phone rings.

While he is in conversation I check my phone, I’ve one answer phone message and it’s from Christine,

‘I’ve had an accident, don’t worry though I’m o.k. but I’m in an ambulance on my way to North Teesside hospital ‘

Well they say things happen in threes, I must add this to the list.

John’s call was from the paramedic who was dealing with Christine, once Kathryn, she’s a rehomed Geordie, had translated the Tyneside twang; it appears that Christine is slightly battered and a bit confused with the most likely explanation being concussion but how anyone could diagnose that, knowing what she’s like normally is quite beyond me.

John jumps back on the battered Kawumph and heads off to the hospital while the rest of us erect tents and carry out a post mortem on the day’s eventful ride.

I decide to hold off my usual post ride binge to see if I’m needed and it’s a good job too as a couple of hours later, after I’ve made a food and beer run to Morrison’s, John calls and asks if I can ride down and meet him at the hospital. They are keeping Christine in and as there is little he can do there he decides to join us at least for one night.
I leave the rest of the team huddled round the tents sheltering from a cold north wind and very noticeable dip in temperature

and blast the thirty or so miles to Stockton on Tees to find John with a pile of luggage at the hospital doorway. The police have take him to the garage were Christine’s new Breva was recovered to and he has collected the tent and some perishables from the panniers. From eye witness accounts, as Christine remembers very little, it appears that a white van had side swiped her in the fast lane of the A19, luckily the traffic was slow moving, around 65 mph and all the traffic behind had come to a stop. The bike and Chris has slid some considerable distance but it’s thought Christine had knocked herself out in the first impact hence going limp and not having had contact with anything else on the slide down the road had saved her from more serious injuries. The van had f*cked off though, possibly not even knowing they’d hit her.

John and I make our way back to the rally site by which time we had been joined by a few more of the Rotherham contingency who had ridden up after work and Brian had just arrived down from Bigger in the Scottish boarders , on his 220 bhp supercharged Rocket 3. We unpack John’s tent and although scraped and battered the major holes appeared to be on the groundsheet. Somewhat relieved that Kathryn and I were not going to have to share our tent with him it was finally time for a beer or five.

Over at the marquee Manny has already found a ridiculous scrumpy

which he tempts me with and all too soon we are all laid around the marquee, enjoying a smoke in the strictly no smoking area.

What rebels eh ?
Simon and John even have a bonding moment.

Enough to say I don’t remember getting back to the tent and neither does Kathryn !

As I lie in my tent around 6am on Saturday morning I hear the distinctive note of a BMW being started, next to my ear! It’s Baggy who has decided to nip back to Settle to pick up a lady friend, he gets back around 10 am whilst Buckles and Di decide to have a Saturday morning lie in.

John packs up and heads back to the hospital to check on Christine’s recovery whilst myself, Kathryn, Simon and Baggy, who is now joined by Jan on pillion, decide to head north and explore the Northumberland Coastal Trail. Closure of the Tyne Tunnel results in very heavy traffic as we pass through Gateshead and over the Tyne Bridge, from here we pick up the coast road to Tynemouth. We head through Whitley Bay in gorgeous sun and then on to Amble and Warkworth. Reaching Alnwick around noon we had just parked up when we are joined by Tim, Daz, Kevin and some more of the Rotherham riders. An hour is spent wandering round the town with lunch taken in a very continental setting, at outside tables in the market square under a picture postcard blue sky. In an effort to avoid the grid lock of the Tyne Tunnel closure we return to South Shields via the A1.

John has called and both he and Christine are back home, she was released sometime after lunch but had to endure a train journey via Doncaster and Rotherham before finally getting a taxi home carrying all her bike gear, panniers, etc whilst nursing two cracked ribs, gravel rash and a big headache.

After restocking with beer at the supermarket we leave the bikes back at the tents and walk the half mile or so to the Marsden Grotto pub.

Built into the cliff at beach level, access is gained by a rather claustrophobic lift or a very long and winding set of steps. It’s an interesting little place with lots of tales of smugglers and duty men, well worth calling in for a pint, tall crumbling sea stacks fill the bay and the views out to the open water of the North Sea are stunning.

It appears that on this visit we have just made it in time as Baggy tries to order food.

‘I’m sorry sir, there is no food available, we only serve food until 6pm tonight as there is a private function on ‘says the barman.

‘That’s o.k.’ says Baggy ‘it’s only 5.15, I’ll order now ‘

‘Ah no, there’s no food on now and we are shutting the bar at 6 pm’ was the response.

We shift a couple of pints and given the price it’s a good job we can’t stay longer.

Back at the tents there’s time for a few beers round the tents while Tim prepares a barbeque

and then it’s time to wander back to the marquee for the evening bands.

The evening passes with a repeat of Friday’s overindulgence

and with Kathryn already in her bed I wander off for some food. Walking back to the tent I now notice that I appear to have lost control of my bladder, mmm now that’s odd, I think, as a very cold liquid runs down my leg. I suss out that whilst getting a bag of chips and trying to balance a curry I’ve put an open can of beer in the centre pocket of my jumper, it just happens to now be upside down and emptying its contents all over me. I’m soaked but just decide to carry on walking. Need that one putting on my list.

Sunday most of us are up early, there’s a sea fret in with low cloud and accompanying drizzle. Packed we wait another hour or so for Buck to rise.

A couple of us use this down time constructively to run up and down a damp field pushing ‘Spuds’ Honda Goldwing Aspancade, the fact that the bike is a late 1980’s model and still appears to have the original battery fitted together with enough lights to illuminate most of Blackpool makes it even more surprising when the bike does actually start. For those who are wondering ‘ Spud ‘ gets his nickname from being a potato dealer who supplies ‘The Codfather’ who believe it or not owns a fish and chip shop !!!!..

Half the group head back down the A19 and A1 just wanting to try and out run the weather. I lead the scenic run back, first following the coast towards Hartlepool, we join a short section of the A19 and as I check my mirrors there’s only Pete Wheelers spotlights behind, we seem to have lost Simon, Manny, Buck and Diane. After a few minutes Pete and I decide to spin round but this entails a further three miles south bound before we can loop and retrace the route. As was always going to happen we are heading north as the rest come towards us heading south. Pete and I get a bit of a squirt on and we meet them pulled over in a lay by.

‘What happened to you lot?’ I enquire

Buck describes what happened as ‘like being at the circus’, apparently Manny was ahead of the rest when ‘All of a sudden his tool roll came undone, spanners and screwdrivers were bouncing off the road and coming at me and Simon like a bloody knife thrower’ Buck explained.

On pulling over Simon is heard to say

‘Is it because I’m Shaggy’s boss? Has he put a contract out on me? Everywhere I go this weekend someone is trying to kill me’

It appears, from Manny’s later account, that the forced stop had come at just the right moment for some as whilst he was repacking his tool roll, Buck was seen quickly removing his helmet before falling to his knees and creating a pavement pizza, kids and beer !.

Should have had all of that on my list!

By the time we reach Middlesbrough the drizzle had started to build to a deluge and the usually fantastic road through Stokesley and on to Helmsley is a flowing river. Added to the soaking roads I also start noticing increasingly large and more frequent patches of fresh diesel on every bend. This increases over the next mile or two until rounding a bend we come across the culprits, a line of over thirty vintage tractors!!. I think about covering my ‘diesel kills’ sticker and slow to walking pace as we pass, another secret’s out, show me a nice green John Deere or a well tyred little Massey and I go weak at the knees.

The rain continues and the fog thickens and as we pass the view point at Newgate Bank, the view is oh about 25 metres! A pause for coffee and pasties in Helmsley see’s Buck deciding to push on through, he still carries red eyes and I think his bed is calling. We are now down to myself and Kathryn, Simon, Pete and Manny, with Manny being the next to drop off as he turns to head west towards the Pennines, we push on and pick up the motorway just past York.

Sitting around three figure speeds the boredom of the motorway is despatched as quickly as possible and after Pete has cut off to Doncaster and Simon back to Sheffield we arrive in sunny ( for that read wet ) Rotherham around 3pm.

With just enough time to unload a few bits from Bertha we order a taxi to meet John and Christine in ‘ The Ship ‘ at Greasborough, for Chris this is purely medicinal to wean her off the painkillers of course. She’s battered and fairly bruised especially across her hands and shoulders but is in good spirits. The insurance company are picking up the Moto Guzzi on Monday and returning it to the dealers at Loughborough hopefully for a full rebuild and not to be written off, John’s Kawumph is being collected to be taken for repair and Simons BMW is in at Rainbow Motorcycles next week for an estimate.

Me. well I’m off to the ‘Simmer Dim’ rally in the Shetland Islands in two weeks time so I guess with so much to plan I think I’d better start writing the list now.

P.S. July 18th 2010
Christine’s Guzzi is back and A1 , cost £3700 + VAT
Johns Kawumph back tomorrow, cost unknown
Simons BMW in for repair next Saturday £1750 + VAT + labour

1 comment:

  1. To think I spent all that time writing the reports at Jigsaw when there was a literary giant sitting next to me. Light under the bushel or what ...?!?