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22nd November 2004


Riding And Remembering

You can't out-run time's winged chariot for ever, but even on an old bike you can give it a damn good try. NVNL enjoys an hour's ride around Cornwall, for John...

Frost last night and frost the night before, all gone now, it's bright sunshiny Saturday lunchtime, the roads are dry and I'm off out for a potter about. On the radio they're singing 'Let's have a minute's noise for John' as I clamber into my sensible riding gear and check my equipment -- phone, wallet, spectacles, camera. They laid John Peel to rest yesterday, and Yasser Arafat. Fred Dibnah died this week too. It'll be a gentle, contemplative ride to some distant hill tops today I think, down the county to St Dennis, then take some back lanes eastward to Kit Hill for a gaze across the border, then home for tea. So we have a plan.

Rufus the T140 Triumph starts on the button and although this is quite routine I can feel my pulse quicken. Trickle down the lane and turn on to the A390. Uphill, sun on my left. No time to see whether the shadows cast are long and wintry because there are cars in my way. That stuff about a gentle, contemplative ride turns out to be complete bolleaux because Rufus is on fine form and I'm OFF. Yinging past the understanding cars and vans I fly down to Lostwithiel. On days like this I just love cracking the throttle open... actually I love it most days. Lostwithiel is a quaint Stannary Town on the river Fowey with some nice architecture and an excellent bookshop, whence came my copy of 'Motorcycle Cavalcade' and lots of other things.

Heading east out of Lostwithiel there's a long steepish hill which winds up through the woods. I want to feel the motor digging deep up this hill so I throttle, brake, throttle, brake, throttle until the cars are behind me in just in time to pull hard up the one in six. Those three poor fellows John, Fred and Yasser may have slipped this mortal coil recently but in this moment I am very alive. After the long right-hander I hit the brow and slow down. I want a lot more rides, like this one, and all the other types as well.

Rufus, Resting

A mile or two further on I crest Penpillick Hill and have a long wide view of St Austell Bay - shining sea, the chimneys of the clay works at Par are belching smoke as usual to remind us that there's still some industry left here, just. Hope Martin's doing something similar now he's got a new MoT, A65Bill may be dancing on the footrests of his M33 at this very moment.

Pootle sedately 'with' rather than 'through' the traffic as far as Cuddra. On this section I was at least able to observe in the speed camera stretch of St Blazey that the cars I'm following probably are doing thirty which is what my speedo reads. Note to J Rendell thanks for the excellent advice on how to set up a bicycle speedometer. I bought the equipment but haven't quite worked out how to get the required six millimetre gap between sensor and pick up.

As I turn right at Cuddra onto the A391, splendid wide new bypass, I lift the throttle slides a little too far and rather than slow down I weave side to side set to dig the power in. And there's Peely again playing the Undertones just for me: 'I wanna hold, I wanna hold on tight and pull the bars from left to right .'

A fort of dubious origins

Right, stuff being calm, I'm nearly fifty and out with a bike less than half my age. Obviously I stuck to the speed limit M'Lud. Four kings and an ace.

Then a roundabout, and another, and another. I've heard it said that they don't have roundabouts in the United States of America, can this be true? If so it might explain why they keep having wars and stuff. Great thing, your British roundabout.

Around Carthew, home of AL Rowse, we get onto windey, risey-fally B-roads, maybe C-roads -- we still want 'a minute's noise for John' and push along at a sprightly pace to Whitemoor where there are pedestrians and motorcycle shops so we do thirty again like proper grown-ups then more 'teenage kicks' as far as St Dennis where we climb the hill to the Church and stop. Time for a smoke.

South of St Dennis

St Dennis is a new find for me. Mentioned in the Domesday book as Dimelihoc, it has some another name-associations - Dinas (Cornish for Hill Fort) and St Dionysius. Now David K's your RealClassicist for archaeology and he's had me looking at the place from all angles to see if it fits the bill as a promontory fort rather than a hill fort. Frankly I don't feel sufficiently enlightened to give a view, but I often come up here to take in the views which include the Goss Moor to the north and clay mining to the south. Any road up it's a proper old place and when I come up here I always have the feeling that I'll be able to outrun time's winged chariot just a little longer.

So fire up Rufus and let's head for Kit Hill via the dear old A30, trunk road to the orient. Give the old bike a proper pipe opener. The A30 seldom fails to disappoint. Let's face it, a T140 with street scrambler bars may or may not be good for a ton, but if it is I wouldn't know because I can't hang on past ninety (sorry Your Eminence, seventy) without getting severe neck pain. I settle down to an indicated sixty following a cab through a speed trap, hmmn perhaps my speedo really does work.

Boredom sets in, I still thirst for the sensation of going slightly too fast for the prevailing conditions. I leave the A30 at Lanivet and head along the old road for Lanhydrock and Respryn. Good thrash. Can't put it any other way. Two hundred and fifty miles to the east of me Anarchy's riding round the Wild West End, presumably on that Yam. Twelve or so time zones away Ozboy's fast asleep and dreaming of wiring the indicators on his C range 500, Even money Andy C's doing the same as me in Somerset on his T100.

Graveful Dead

Narrow lanes, light traffic, lots of braking, bit of leaning round the corners, lots of accelerating, bit more accelerating, some fairly hefty braking. Over a nice stone bridge with big noise, meet the rising ground -- oh merde -- there's an oncoming van in this shaded narrow lane and the driver's holding a mobile telephone to his ear, wet leaves to my left, he's seen me; well done muppet.

Accelerate away, beeches and fields line the lane and the rooks are doing some sort of changing of the guard routine. In a ceremony which probably puzzled the hill fort (OK David, promontory fort maybe) builders, the rooks from the field are taking off and flying up into the trees while the other rooks are leaving the trees and flying down to the field. Got me guessing that's for sure.

Wave to someone on a Jap cruiser, thrash, brake, thrash, brake and slow right down to rejoin the A390 heading east and Kit Hill beckons as I yank the throttle slides up again. Actually, perhaps I'll skip Kit Hill and live to ride another day. This is great fun but I'll turn in right here before I make a complete arse of myself.

Anyway I've had an hour's ride for John. Only connect.

John Peel OBE

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