A Travellerspoint blog

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour was conceived following our Mother's death and cremation by my brother Neill and myself. She has, maybe in jest, said that she would like her Ashes scattered at her "ancestral home" in Scotland. Her family name was Shaw. Clan Shaw had a castle and lands at Loch an Eilein near Aviemore.

  • This blog is a joint one written by Neill and me. My entries are appended PD.
  • The photos were taken by both of us.
  • The route was created in the route planning software - Tyre.

Ashes Tour Route

Ashes Tour Route

Day 1

Fuelled up, on bacon rolls, we set off around 10:30. First stop 8 miles up the road to fuel the bikes. Then we started the slog up towards Manchester. With a coffee stop to break the journey at Northampton services on the M1, we arrived at our first stop, Paul's ex and mum's friend Audrey, in Congleton, just after 3pm . A cuppa, chat and cakes and it was a short hop to fuel up the bikes once more, before heading towards Manchester, to stay with Auntie Linda, mum's sister, in Northenden. We were there around 6pm.

Before the "off" at Neill's in Chatham, Kent

Before the "off" at Neill's in Chatham, Kent

Sprint had returned over 63mpg on the trip to Congleton, best ever.

Plan is to set off on Day 2 around 9am. We have about 300 miles to do, including visiting mum's old homes in Oldham, so we can't afford to hang about.

Wally of the day - Smart car driver who managed to make his car as wide as a truck when we were trying to filter on the M25!

Neill

Day 2, Northenden to Glenfarg

Up and sorted and on the road before 9am. First stop 32 Bargap Road, Oldham, the Shaw family home, about 30 mins away. Quick photoshoot outside.

32 Bargap Road, Oldham, Lancashire - home to our Gran Hilda.

32 Bargap Road, Oldham, Lancashire - home to our Gran Hilda.

Then on our way to Boundary Park, home of Oldham Athletic. Paul and our Dad, Claud use to go here regularly from the late 1950's up until me moved to Surrey.

Oldham Athletic FC

Oldham Athletic FC

Next stop, about a mile away, Laburnham Avenue, the family home till 1965. I was born there. Another photo shoot (pic to follow) then we hit the road again.

Our next stop the Ribblehead Viaduct. No connection for mum here but as our route was running nearby, we decided we may as well pay a visit. We had an early lunch in the Station Inn. Pork and black pudding pies and pork and chilli jam pies, washed down with a pot of coffee. I can honestly say, these were the best pork pies I have ever eaten.

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

After a walk to the viaduct we headed off in the direction of the M6 and Penrith, for our next fuel stop. Penrith junction was manic, absolutely rammed but fuelled up we headed up the Hartside Pass. I had the go-pro fitted, so there'll be some footage to view at some point. The run up the pass was spoilt by the inevitable tin boxes but still enjoyable. This route cross country is great.

We took a comfort break at Brunton Turret, part of Hadrians Wall and then a coffee stop as we crossed the border into Scotland.

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

It was gone 3pm and we still had almost 100 miles to go. The going has been slow, due to traffic and speed cameras but we soon hit Edinburgh and the Forth Road Bridge. The rail bridge looks pretty good from this close up.

Brunton Turret

Brunton Turret

Brunton Turret

Brunton Turret

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

With a quick blast up M9, before we knew it, we had arrived at the Bein Inn, Glenfarg. We pulled up about 18:30, quite chilly and thoroughly fed up with the ride. 305 miles is just a little too much for one day and we were both glad it was over. At least we didn't need waterproofs today, though we did have a few spots of rain on occasions. Fingers crossed for tomorrow but forecast looks a bit iffy.

IMG_0111.JPGThe Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

The Ashes Tour

Fed, watered (read beered), including gratis liqueurs, we are now ready for kip. We have spent almost 10 hours on the road today, so sleep will come quite quickly I should imagine.

Tomorrow is the big day. We have a 95 mile ride to Loch an Eilein and the final farewell for Ma. After that we'll head across to Spean Bridge and the Commando Monument, to Fort William, through Glen Coe and to our bed for the night, on the east bank of Loch Lomond.

Day 3, Glenfarg to the drop zone

We were up at 7am again and ready for our brekkie at 8. A healthy bowl of fruit and fibre was followed up with a not so healthy, full Scottish cooked brekkie. Plan was to leave by 9am. In the event, we are five minutes early. First stop was just 10 miles up the road, a fuel stop. One good thing about this trip thus far, we aren't using a much fuel as I thought we would.

As we made our way along the A9, it wasn't long before some nasty black clouds appeared on the near horizon. I could tell they were rain bearing and tried to attract Paul's attention, he was leading, to pull over. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to pull over before we ended up in a contraflow system, where the laybys were all closed and the inevitable happened. A short heavy shower engulfed us. As the contraflow ended, a bright patch appeared up ahead, so I made the decision to push on through. The decision proved to be a good one, as we ended up in sunshine once again. It wasn't long though before the same menacing clouds appeared up ahead once more. I knew there was a stop (from my tour last year) just up ahead. In the event the heavens opened again just before we got the the rest area/cafe, so we were already quite damp before donning the waterproofs. This was to be the pattern for the rest of the ride up and indeed, the rest of the day.

We finally arrived at Loch an Eilein around about 11am. Once again, the sun was shining. As we rode towards the Loch, I felt quite emotional. Maybe it was the wind in my eyes, I did have the visor up, maybe not. We explained to the chap at the car park what we were there to do and he kindly told us to park the bikes and he'd show us where to go. By the man's hut were some bird feeders, servicing finches, tits, etc, and to our surprise and joy, a red squirrel! He soon scampered off though, no doubt scared by the swishing of our waterproof bottoms as we walked! There's no pictorial evidence, I'm afraid.

The chap gave us directions of where to go to find a suitable 'resting' place and I carried Ma as we made our way along the loch side. We settled on a spot close to the island and the castle, a large patch of ferns, set back from the bank, 20 or 30 feet, distinguishable by a group of trees close by.

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Paul did the honours, being eldest son and we said our final goodbye. We took some photos of those trees by the ferns, so should anyone else from the family ever venture up that way, they should have some chance of finding Ma's final resting place.

That was it. The task that had first been discussed many, many years ago and maybe in jest, had been fulfilled. We had done as our mother had requested be done when she died and scattered her ashes at Loch an Eilein. We had ridden the best part of 600 miles to do it but do it we did. We made our way back to the bikes.

Day - PD View

And so day 3 began.

When we got up for breakfast the weather looked bright and the sky was blue. By the time breakfast was finished it looked dodgy but dry and we knew rain was going to feature somehow.

It did. The Perth petrol stop showed Döra was keeping above 50mpg despite the higher speeds although these were tempered with some country lanes across the country. The figure was 53.78 mpg.

As we slogged up the A9 towards Aviemore it looked darker and then sunny but in the roadworks before Dalwhinnie we were in waterproofs and that was pretty much it for the day.

We arrived at Loch an Eilean slightly differently by TomTom to the mapped idea!

We told the steward what we had come to do and he was most helpful.

But first a chance to spot one of the rare red squirrels. Until relatively recently our only squirrel until some fool brought grey squirrels from Canada and let them loose. Now the red is found in a few pockets in England and of course in Scotland.

And after a short ceremony, Mum is in her final resting place where her spirit can see the castle and join the Shaw clan ancestors.

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Once we were done we set of on another TomTom route on another slightly different route westwards to Kingussie and the marvellous A86 all the way to Spean Bridge where it meets the A82 to Fort William.

After a coffee stop at the Wild Flower in Newtonmore we set off. The A86 is about 35 miles of the most perfectly surfaced road imaginable. Smooth and on the corners they have thoughtfully laid a non slip surface. The road passes several lochs; Laggan and Moy.

In fact it was an anticlimax to arrive at Spean Bridge with traffic jams! We turned right to go up the A82 to see the Commando Monument.

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I went there as a bit of a tribute to Claire's Dad, Victor Stevenson, who will be 90 this year and one of those trained here and who went on to serve in the Commandos on Burma.

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From there it was all southwards in some pretty miserable weather to the hotel at Balmaha on Loch Lomond.

Day 3, Loch an Eilein to Loch Lomond

We left the Loch and started the return leg and the 'holiday' part of our trip. Sweeping round a narrow back road, we came across an old ruined barracks, Ruthven. A quick stop for some photos and back on the road we went. It was time for a coffee stop and we pulled up in a little village just south of Kingussie, Newtonmore. The 'coffee' shop was a combination of gift shop with a tea room in the rear but also some small tables in the shop window. We sat in the shop front, so as not to frighten any of the other customers ;-)

Ruthven Barracks

Ruthven Barracks

We set off once more, heading for the Commando Monument at Spean Bridge. This meant taking the A86 across the highlands. That's a really nice run, with some superb sweeping bends and is particularly nice where it runs alongside Loch Laggan. Not easy to look at the view and watch for the next bend though! Soon though we got on the end of the inevitable tin box train and were very shortly in Spean Bridge. Ultimately we would be going south but for now we ran a couple of miles back north, to the monument. I was only there last year, so as Paul went off to take some photos, I polished off some shortcake from the hotel hospitality tray. It was very grey up there and I could see the clouds getting lower and closer. Within minutes it was raining again and by the time we had made it the short distance back to Spean Bridge it was tipping down. Don't you just love a Scottish summer?

It wasn't too long before we pulled into the fuel stop in Fort William, which sits opposite the Ben Nevis Distillery. There was one car in the car park! The petrol station, however, was rammed but we were lucky enough to both get on a pump as we arrived, saving us sitting in the rain waiting for one to become free. Fuelled up and toileted, we set off again. The rain was still hammering down. I had thought I would put the GoPro on for the ride through Glen Coe but not in that weather!

I've seen some cracking scenery just recently, on my US tour but Glen Coe still ranks as one of the best places to ride through. Superb in the dry and sunshine, you'd think with the rain beating down it would be one of the most awful places to be. Sure, it's not nice riding through the rain but somehow, Glen Coe still manages to remain spectacular, maybe more so, as there is the added 'attraction' of the waterfalls cascading down the cliff faces. Magnificent!

Our next coffee stop, a lay-by along the A82 overlooking Loch Tulla, turned out to be closed, so we pressed on, finally settling on a Best Western hotel in Crianlarich. The rain had stopped by the time we arrived but started again as we left. I was beginning to know how a cat that gets stuck in a washing machine during a wash must feel like. Rinse after rinse after rinse!

Leaving the A82, we headed east again on the A85, then south on the A84. My knowledge from last year had allowed me to plan a route along a superb, tight and twisty road, skirting Loch Venachar, before heading towards the south eastern corner of Loch Lomond. Luckily, that road, the A821 in case you are interested, was dryish and the rain had abated, so we could have a bit of fun. The downside is the road surface, pretty bumpy, especially mid corner and the inevitable moving road blocks. Still, if you are ever up that way, it's a road not to be missed. Again GoPro would have been brilliant here. Never mind.

As the A821 became the more civilised A81, we were soon at Drymen and only a few miles from our hotel. Once again the rain had arrived, caught us up or maybe headed us off, either way, as we pulled up outside the Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha, on the east bank of Loch Lomond, it was still tipping down.

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Besides the rooms in the main hotel/inn, the Oak Tree also has bunk rooms, so it caters for all types and their requirements. We were the only bikers but there were quite a few walkers. It's bad enough riding in the rain, let alone walking! After unpacking our gear, in our modest room, we took a walk along the shoreline to a small marina. It wasn't long before the rain started to spot again though, so we took ourselves back and into the bar. We ordered a pint a perused the menu, awaiting a table in the restaurant. Soon seated, we chose the special to start, Haggis Pakora and the house special burger, The Clansman. If you like haggis you'd not be disappointed with either of these.

The pakora was/were really very nice. The Indian spices mixed with the spicy haggis, complimenting each other beautifully. I could have eaten a lot more than the four per portion, that's for sure. Another beer was ordered to wash down the burger, which is a single beef patty with a large slab of haggis on top. A few chips and some spicy dips finished it off nicely.

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We retired to the bar for another pint, rather quickly as it happened, to prevent the loud blokes on the table next to us, getting there first. As they entered the bar, we sat at a 5/6 seater table by ourselves, a little smirk on our faces. They were forced to stand!

By the window sat a young couple, not an item, though the very forward young lady very openly suggested that some coupling could take place, if he was willing. To our amusement, he blustered and made excuses galore, including his desire to watch the meteor shower that evening. I think she soon realised, as we did, that he must be a virgin, making out that she'd been joking, just to see how he would react. I very much doubt he'll get the offer again.

With the entertainment pretty much over, it was time for bed.

Neill

Day 3 Pt 2 - Paul's View

The hotel for the night was at Balmaha on the south-eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

The journey from Spean Bridge took us a lot longer than expected as we caught on the back of a tin box queue stacked up behind a red van that was unable to exceed 30mph. The 8 miles seemed interminable!

We broke cover and went into the petrol station as we entered Fort William.

The rain that started at at Spean continued to lash down ad we set off southwards through the city heading for Glencoe. The first part of the trip is alongside Loch Linnhe. A pretty nice 8 miles!

Then across the bridge across the neck of Loch Leven and into Glencoe.

This is one of the most scenic places in the UK. In the dry and sunny it would be perfect, but even in the wet it is still fantastic. At least the rain managed to fuel the waterfalls.

We had intended to stop for a coffee at the tea bar at the southern end but it was closed.

In the end we continued to Crianlarich on the A82. I've stopped here before and the railway station buffet is something of a "must visit", except it was closed.

So we headed back to the A82/A85 junction and The Crianlarich Hotel. They didn't bat an eyelid when we walked in wearing our over trousers. Wet over trousers.

DSC05442.JPGCrianlarich Hotel

Crianlarich Hotel

From there we took a roundabout route to Loch Lomond. Crianlarich is merely 6 miles from the top of the loch but we chose a (longer) scenic route to the east to go south.

The western route would have been a little shorter but less scenic. Not far after the stop we said that if we saw any highland cattle we'd stop. And here they are.

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The A85/A84 route took us to Loch Venachar and into the Trossachs through the crazily named of Brig O'Turk and southwards towards Glasgow and then to Balmaha.

The Oak Tree Hotel is right alongside the loch and a marina.

We had a room at the back. The bikes parked out back in the mostly gravel car-park on a small bit of hard standing.

Once cleaned up we went for a walk and then to the bar to try a few local pints. We tried three different ones in the evening.

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Dinner turned out a little strange. Slimming World was already out if the window despite the previous evenings chicken salad.

We'd not had any haggis so far and this was about to end. The starter was the strangest thing, haggis pakora. A ball of spicy batter encasing a centre of haggis!!

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(Excuse the lo-res and and blurred iPhone pictures!)

For main, I was going to have another salad but in the end had the Clansman Burger. A half pound burger, topped with haggis in a large bun and topped with a cherry tomato and an onion ring. Lovely.

Adjoining us was a huge table with a large family group. Noisy. The women playing cards and the blokes talking loudly. Irritating.

When the Dad sent one of the lads to look for a table in the bar my ears pricked up. In the noise I heard the yoof say there were tables. "We're off" I say and set off for the bar. There is a table. A nice big one with five chairs. We sat.

Minutes later Dad arrives with entourage. Oh dear. How sad.

By about 10pm the bar started to empty as the walkers started to head off to their hostels and hotels. We joined them. A marginally later start as Day 4 would be shorter on the road.

Paul

Day 4, Balmaha to Northenden

Mishap this morning, which delayed us somewhat. I discovered the 12v plug for the Tomtom power lead had come apart, depositing the pieces and the fuse into the socket, located unhandily, under the handlebars. After quite a few minutes fiddling and more than a few choice words, I managed to get the pieces out, all except the spring that sits behind the fuse. That, had sprung and was nowhere to be seen, so that meant no power to my TT. I'd have to hope that the charge it had from the day before would last the journey back to Manchester, though if not Paul's was OK. In the event, with power save mode on, it did.

Once more we were in our waterproofs and once again it was a mixture of sunshine and showers, as we made our way south, through Glasgow, under the Clyde and towards our next fuel stop at the Lockerbie services on the M74. Motorway riding is pretty boring, as even car drivers will recognise but I have to say, the road surface of the M74 made it almost a pleasure to ride. Very smooth indeed!

Lockerbie was just a fuel stop, as Paul suggested we might like to stop off at Gretna Green for a coffee. I'd never been, I'd had no reason to go (and still don't Cath!), so agreed that would make a suitable stop. I'd imagined it was a tiny wee town, what I saw was a huge tourist complex (The Blacksmiths) overrun with scores of foreign tourists off loads of coaches. Somewhat disappointing I have to say. Whilst coffee was taken, we decided that instead of the boring M6 all the way to Manchester, that we'd detour down through the Lake District, to Keswick and along Windermere. Par for the course, the heavens opened as we were about to leave, so waterproofs went on again and we set off for England. We rode from shower to shower. It's clear to see why they call it the Lake District, not so clear why so many people go all that way to get wet!

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The rain had stopped by the time we pulled into the Windermere visitor centre, just outside of Ambleside, for a comfort break. The loo, it has to be said, left a lot to be desired. Why can't people flush when they have finished?

Back on the bikes we were soon on the M6 again and before long we had arrived at Auntie Linda's again. Our cousin (Ma's niece) Caroline had just dropped in on her parents on her way back from visiting her sister in Ipswich. We spent a few minutes chatting before she headed off, leaving us to put the bikes in the garage. Friday we rode in, bosh, door shut, job done. Today, we faffed about, toing and froing and in the process managing to scratch my pannier on Paul's spot light, before finally getting the door closed. Uncle Roger offered some t-cut but though only a smallish scratch. the paint has chipped off, so it might be best to just leave it or at least try and get a proper Triumph touch up pen for it. Shit happens!

Once again we had a very nice cooked dinner on the table, washed down with some Grolsch. They are good hosts, Auntie & Uncle. After dinner I broke out the laptop and we showed the photos we had taken since we set off Friday morning. They brought back some good memories for all of us. A chat and another beer and once more it was time for bed. Our final day of the tour will see us visit the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, breaking up the long ride back home. It's another place I've not been to before, so I'm looking forward to it. Weather forecast looks similar to the last couple of days, so there'll be no packing the waterproofs.

Day 4 - Paul's View

Once again we were up early and down for breakfast for 8am when the restaurant opened. This time it was a serve yourself buffet and I guess had we wanted to, we could have gone mad. In the end a couple of pieces of toast and some bacon and eggs sufficed. Did I mention the third and final haggis of the trip?

As we had a relatively short run down to Manchester again and so we thought about a side trip to see a little of the country. After the planned fuel stop near Lockerbie, we set Gretna Green as the next port of call.

I thought it would be about the right time for a coffee break and something of a tourist trap. And we were right. I had imagined it to be a town, but it seemed more like a complex built around the Blacksmith's Forge where people eloped to get married.

Gretna Green

Gretna Green

Gretna Green

Gretna Green

There was a wedding party there, but we didn't stop to look. As was par for the course the weather was intermittent rain and a little dry.

After coffee and then we were off, this time via Windermere. We should have stopped in Ambleside as Windermere itself seemed to have nothing going for it. Loads of traffic and holidaymakers. Terrible.

We then headed across to the M6 and the remainder of the journey to Auntie's house. On arrival we met favourite cousin equal number one, Caroline, and then she was off home

Another day had ended. Just one more left.

Day 5, the run back home

A light brekkie at Auntie's this morning, waterproofs donned (of course) and we set off. Destination, The National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham. The route had planned for us to do a fuel stop on the M6 but with the diversion into the Lakes, that looked as though it might now be a bit of a stretch for Dora, Paul's Explorer. I hadn't been able to id a non services fuel stop, so presumed we would just stop a bit earlier, though still on the M6.

Within minutes of setting off, we were once again being peed on from a great height. It's not just the rain itself, it's also the spray thrown up by the cars and lorries. We were in sight of the M6, on the A556 actually, when I saw a BP garage up ahead, so we dived in there to top the tanks up once more.

The M6 was busy, as usual and the going a little slower as a result and of course because of the conditions. Even so, we arrived at the museum around 11:30 ish. We took a couple of photos outside, then went in, now thankfully minus our waterproofs. Quite surprised to find nowhere to 'park' a crash helmet. You'd think the National Motorcycle Museum would cater for bikers, eh? So Paul locked them on his bike.

Me at the National Motorcycle Museum

Me at the National Motorcycle Museum

First thing we did was head up to the café for a coffee and flapjack. I was pleasantly surprised by the cost. We'd paid more for just coffees earlier on the tour. The place was devoid of bikers but instead there were about half a dozen guys with laptops in there, presumably on some sort of course at the museum's conference rooms. All too geeky for a day off work for bro' and I, so we drank up and went back down to the museum.

This is definitely not the place to be if you don't like motorcycles. The museum consists of about 5/6 halls all rammed full of every make and type of British motorcycle you can think of and many, many more you will never even heard of. In one corner of one hall, I counted, before I gave up, in excess of 30 different manufacturers. Un-Be-liveable! From basic pedal cycles with an engine attached, racing bikes through the ages, dragsters, land speed record holders, beautiful chrome tanked Brough Superiors, to modern day Triumphs, this place is both a feast and overload on the eyes. If you have never been, I'd thoroughly recommend a visit. We both took loads of photos and when the batteries went on my camera, I just switched to the phone!

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We left the museum just after 2pm. Next stop, just five miles away and the site, now a housing estate, of the Triumph factory at Meriden. We decided against the waterproofs, as this was only a short ride and it stayed dry. Besides a couple of roads named after Triumph marques, Daytona Drive, Bonneville Close, all that marks the historic site is a rock and plaque by the side of the main road. We parked up and took some photos. Our Triumphs have no links to this place, save the name on the tank, the modern day Triumphs being built in Hinckley, Leicestershire but our father used to ride (with mum as pillion) a 1951 Thunderbird, that had rolled off the assembly line at this very spot!

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The skies didn't look too threatening as we left Meriden, so we braved it again. We headed south to get onto the M40. This was an intentional route plan, as we'd done the M1 on the way up. Motorway riding is boring, so may a swell spice it up a bit by riding on a different one! We hadn't been going too long before the skies started to look ominous once more, so we pulled into a service area. Whilst we were there, we decided we may as well take a comfort/coffee and as it turned out, late lunch break. We were ready to hit the road again around 4pm and still had over 100 miles to go. The skies were still threatening and waterproofs were donned once again. Good call, for as we returned to the bikes it started to rain. We used this as our final fuel stop. Just as well we only needed a few litres, at £146.9 per gallon!

Into the rain once more we ticked off the miles, the M40 became the M25 and we hit the inevitable jams around Heathrow. I think I mentioned earlier, Paul is able to filter easier than I, Dora not being quite so wide with the luggage on, as my Sprint. As he disappeared between the lines of traffic, that would be the last I would see of him. It was slow going trying to pick my way through the cars whose drivers either just don't want to let you through, just don't use their mirrors or are too busy doing other things (read: texting), to drive straight. Very frustrating but I didn't want to risk another scratch on the panniers for the sake of a few minutes. When I reached Walderslade, I went to fill up so eventually pulled up outside home around 6:35pm. I think Paul made it home about 10 minutes later, with an extra 40 miles to go, so you can see the difference his being able to filter made.

Unpacked, I wheeled the bike into the garage. I had covered 1,327 in the five days, spent £154 on fuel and the Sprint had averaged 61.6mpg for the entire trip, with a best of 69mpg on the trip from Northenden to the M40 services on the last day.

We had completed what we set out to do and had some fun (despite the weather) on the trip too, so all in all, not a bad tour.

Rest in Peace, Ma.

Neill
xx

Mildred Devall 1929-2013 RIP.

Mildred Devall 1929-2013 RIP.

Day 5 - Paul's View

The return home via the National Motorcycle Museum was pretty straight forward. A mix of sunshine and showers. In the end we had done what we intended to do. We had taken Mum's ashes and scattered them where she wanted them, or at least jokes she had wanted them.

The stop by the old Meriden factory location before we hit the A45/M45/A5/M1/M25/M2 and then A2/M20 for me broke up the day a little more.

Some photos:

By the Meriden Stone

By the Meriden Stone

By the Meriden Stone

By the Meriden Stone

By the Meriden Stone

By the Meriden Stone

Photos from the National Motorcycle Museum can be seen from the links on the right ------>

Posted by InvictaMoto 08:57 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Welsh National Rally 2011

My rally weekend started on Friday. I packed my stuff and then had l lunch with Claire, at home, before setting out on the run up to the Youth Hostel in Coalport, near Ironbridge in Shropshire.

The weather was hot and I was wearing my new cordura trousers for the first time. I had removed the quilted lining for both comfort and to avoid death by over heating. The run up was pretty straightforward with the satnav deciding on the M1/M6 route.

As it turned out this was a bad idea as apart from the road works plaguing the M25, the M1 was dug up from Luton Airport to past the Bedford junction, with two lanes chocked full of trucks. Whatever happened to the railway for heavy loads.

I stopped for a break and a coffee at the Watford Gap services before continuing. Petrol seemed to be lasting okay and it was only at Birmingham did I need the first top up. Managing just over 204 miles for 16.5 litres. A tip here. If you are on the M6, avoid the services and their high prices. Take the A34 signed to Birmingham and there's a cheap Shell station about 200 yards from the junction.

I arrived at the YH hostel about 5.30pm and was just checking where to book in when I saw Steve Hazlehurst arriving. We had a four bed room and staked our claim to the bottom bunks. Sadly we had to share with a cyclist, but it wasn't too much hardship.

Dinner was in the Shakespeare Inn down the road. Good food and a few beers,

We were up early and off to the start. All very easy and the weather was looking good. The plan was to enter for a Platinum Award. To qualify we had to visit 15 unmanned (and answer clues) and 3 manned checkpoints. Plus we signed up for the Dragon Award that was based on airfields, and having to visit four and answer clues. At the start we met up with our third team member, Andrew Pratt.

Our circuit was roughly a counter clockwise tour of North Wales and it seemed this year that there were far more checkpoints down "blind" routes that required a back track than in previous years. In fact there were four, usually just the one, plus these all add miles that in the end are wasted.

In hindsight the tour d'Anglesey was probably a mistake, it was too slow going and cost us a lot of time that we really needed later in the day. That said there is some very attractive scenery up there, and some nice little bays with beaches and sea views.

The trip took us over both the bridges across the Menai, under the towering majesty of Snowdon and down some tiny little tracks suitable for 4x4 and sheep.

Time was getting on and we were looking to make our goal when we arrived to find the bridge we were hoping to cross had closed! It's a toll bridge and had closed an hour before we arrived. A quick re think of the routes and a re-jig of the plans had us running out of light rather than time. We ended up looking for a clue in total darkness, and then abandoned the hunt. We had qualified for a Gold Award and also the Dragon.

It started to rain by the time we left Castle Caerinion and it was in torrential rain that I made my way back on unlit single track roads to Shrewsbury and the A5, then the M54 and M6 to arrive at the hotel I had booked in Coventry.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In the end the Formule 1 seems like a cross between a bail hostel, workers doss house and a brothel. I have stayed in the chain across France and whilst they are cheap, they are usually 100% better than this dump.

After a lot of not sleeping I was off home at about 8am, finally arriving about 1pm after some stops for coffee to keep awake.

In the end this is probably my last WNR for a few years and it was fun, good to meet up with two friends and ride the excellent scenery.

Photos can be seen linked --------------------------------->

Posted by InvictaMoto 04:59 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

Ride of Respect 2011

The numbers had dropped considerably since last year with just three of us on the run from the Kent Centre and Graham Reynolds already there as a marshal. In the end Ian had to drop out so it was just my brother and me at the Oakdene with about 25 KAMG members on a run to Shoreham.

“Where you off to?” asked one. “Wootton Bassett” says I. “What’s there?” he replies.. I explain and still he has no idea what we are doing.

wb2011_by_paul_devall.jpg

Our run along the M26/M25/M3 to the pit stop at Sainsbury’s in Bracknell goes off well and we make good time. The M4 is relatively calm with the occasional car driving nutter right up your arse when in the fast lane at more than the legal limit. But what the heck, we are above these idiots.

On arrive at Hullavington the first person we spot waving his arms like a windmill is Graham. I stop to have a word and a pat on the back.

Then we show our bike passes and join the runway wide group. We are about halfway along as we come to a stop and it’s 1105. This year is better organised as the bikes are in blocks of around a 1000 bikes with a big gap. As the riders depart on their run, the blocks edge forward about 150 yards.

At 1315 we are off. Not quite the 1100-1200 slot but they had had some incidents (their words) on earlier runs.

Our run went off without incident. I managed to get stuck behind some bloke with a Czech SOC hi-viz and a Triumph Tiger. Try as I might I couldn’t get alongside to see who it was but the occasional glimpse in his right mirror looked like Les Bensley’s moustache! Somewhere in my SOC archive (actually a box in the garage!) I have the original artwork for that style of logo!!

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. A trio of fat blokes on Triumph Rocket-Threes seemed to have problems with balance and/or clutch control and we had to slip past as their barges blocked the road on any one degree incline.

The ride through WB was very poignant and even had an old git like me with a tear. The people thanking us for our being there. Being thanked by someone wearing a t-shirt showing the face and name of a relative killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan seems the wrong way round somehow.

Once clear of the hand slapping and waving we joined the M4 eastwards for the sprint to Membury to make a lunch and loo stop. Here were reunited with one of the Triumph barges making a turn that would put an oil tanker to shame!

From then on we went with the flow to top up again in Bracknell for the last bit of the way home.

I arrived home in time to watch WSB race two from Donington and eat the pork pie that had escaped at Membury.

A superb day and a chance for us to give something back.

See some of the pix from the day on the Flickr group I set up after the event - http://www.flickr.com/groups/woottonbassett2011/

And not only that, my picture (above!!!)_ taken on 17th March when the wristbands and bike tags arrived has been purloined into someone's Blogspot Blog. Might have been nice to get a credit.

Posted by InvictaMoto 14:53 Archived in England Comments (0)

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