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10th September 2003
Daisy's Diary: The Landmark Challenge 2002
The first part of the adventure, in which Graham Ham and Daisy the Speed Twin locate their first Landmarks and experience simultaneous sparking...
'Are you really, really sure about this?' That was the wife, some time after my impromptu announcement. It was February 2002. And yes... I WAS sure about this. I intended to do the Triumph Owners' Club's Landmark Challenge 2002, on Daisy, a 1948 Sprung Hub (Mark 1, mind!) Speed Twin - and hopefully land the Individual Gold Award.
For those of you who are not familiar with this challenge, then now's a good time to get to grips with it - from this year they've thrown the Challenge open to all classic marques, so you can all have a go! It goes like this; The Birmingham and Wolves branch produce a list of 50 Ordnance Survey map references, and give a cryptic clue as to the Landmark which is there. You have a riding season, up to December each year, to solve and visit as many as you feel able to, collecting photographic evidence of your visits. It obviously has to be same bike each time -- and the same rider.
It's that simple, and it's a great excuse to ride that classic. So get on with it! Visit the TOMCC website, and get your forms, dust off that road atlas and get landmarking. There are a range of awards from bronze to gold, depending on how many you manage. The Individual Gold goes to the oldest machine that completes all 50 - and a spangly trophy follows.
I reckon that if you're gonna do something this stupid, then it really should be for charity. Once you've said that to a few people, then there's no turning back. Within a month, I'd chosen the John Jackson Youth Scholarship as my charity, they'd agreed and publicised it, been and taken photos and I'd got lots of sponsors queuing up. So that was that. I HAD to do it now.
I decided to attack it in chunks, picking off everything south of Birmingham over a number of weekends, but taking 11 days out of work (with weekends that gives me 15) to do the far reaching Northern, Welsh and Scottish bits. We needed to be half-sensible, so I chose a 'base camp' from which each foray would commence and finish (I live in the furthest south east corner of Kent y'know). There's two reasons for this and I make no apology! First; the large proportion of roads out of the far south east corner are undergoing major, major roadworks -- no fun at all on a machine this old, and nowhere to go if disaster strikes. Second; it actually takes an hour and a half just to reach south London from this corner, where you are then presented with the M25. I couldn't get enough time off to do that each time and I have no inclination
Therefore I chose Cambridge as my base camp, taking Daisy in the Renault Espace to a layby on the A428 between Cambridge and Bedford. Right! It was decision time. I would to attack the east first - Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk and Linconshire. I planned to hit six clues in the first weekend, which may have been be a bit ambitious, but we'd see how it went. My 14 year old son, Chris, was riding pillion for this leg.
We unloaded Daisy and the camping gear at Base Camp, then loaded camping gear and Chris onto Daisy and we were off. The weather was pants on the day, being fine, 'orrible drizzle - oh well. The first clue was only a few miles from Base Camp, a military cemetery. We soon knocked it off. Getting out of Cambridge wasn't fun though, as Daisy hates stop-start traffic -- her engine's not in good fettle, bless 'er. She overheated and stopped on the ring road somewhere in the north west suburbs. Fine - been here many times before… Waited 20 minutes. Kick, kick, kick phut, spit, wibble ROAR! OK, we were off again!
Finally we freed ourselves from the nightmare Cambridge circular, and headed out east towards Newmarket. As we headed along the A14, the rain eased. Newmarket came and went and we continued on into the evening, getting dry in the wind. We stopped at a layby for a bum rest, fag break and map check. It is gratifying that within minutes a chap on a BMW pulled in to ask what the problem was - this happens to me a lot ! Explanations followed, directions checked and off he went, followed by us.
We took the A1120 at Stowmarket, and headed into the sticks towards the next clue. I reckoned it was about 15 to 20 miles away and we needed to get a shove on, as the light was going and Daisy's not blessed with stunning lighting abilities. The road was fantastic, and we really enjoyed ourselves. Yet as we reached the clue, a post mill, we were pressed for time and really needed to find somewhere to camp. As the last light faded, and Daisy's orange glow failed to help, things were getting fairly desperate. We spied a B&B sign, and I decided to shell out the readies if they had a vacancy. What luck! It was a big pub, and yes they did, so with no more ado we booked in and I looked forward to a few beers, some scran and a comfortable bed.
When we left the next morning, the landlord only charged half-rate, as he liked hearing about what we were doing - what a nice man! Off we went again then, heading north. There was trouble ahead - we got hopelessly lost in the tiny back roads that didn't even show on my map (it's one of those Roadmap of Britain jobs) and Daisy, sensing my vulnerability, decided to start mucking about. We pressed on with a steady misfire getting worse. I couldn't believe that I couldn't locate us on the map, which doesn't even contain reference to the numerous villages that we were passing through.
So there we were, on the first of my forays in pursuit of the Individual Gold Award. It was raining again, we were cold, I was lost somewhere in Suffolk , Daisy had the 'ump and had just stopped unceremoniously with an impressive backfire, and my 14 year old son had definitely had enough and wanted me to call Carole Nash recovery.
'Certainly not' said I, being very reluctant to end Daisy's unbroken record of always getting me home (even 150 miles on a single cylinder on one memorable occasion soon after acquiring her!). It dawned on me, however, that we were an awfully long way from home and had only managed two clues...
I proded hopelessly at the BTH magneto in the vain hope of finding the problem. Right - usual drill then - plugs out, kick, kick, kick hmmmm… good sparks. OK plugs in, kick, kick, kick BANG! Eeek! Not good. I had to suspect that she'd shredded the magneto pinion or else it had slipped. But then I noticed that when kicking over, both plugs were sparking -- AT THE SAME TIME. Aha! That was most certainly not right. What could cause it ? I tried them one at a time and discovered that the left one was fine and ran evenly. The right one caused the backfire. So we pulled the points to bits, pulled the HTs off and cleaned everything. Put it all back and - she was fine!
But we'd lost nearly an hour and a half, so had to press on. We reached the north coast and the next clue, the Holt Steam Railway, without further incident. They were lovely roads and the sun had come out but we hadn't stopped much so were feeling it! Headed west again and stopped at King's Lynn for lunch, then on to the Wash and the next clue at the Sutton Bridge. West again from there and into Linconshire. We had two clues still to do, one of which was away to the north and time was a-running away !
But it was hard not to enjoy the ride now. It had turned into a scorching afternoon, the roads we'd chosen were fantastic, as was the countryside, and Daisy had settled down nicely. Clue number five, an air museum, was knocked off in short order and we turned north for the final one of this foray.
We chose a B-road which seemed to head most of the way, and couldn't believe how picturesque this turned out to be, with a river running alongside, late afternoon sun building into a glorious sunset, etc, etc... fantastic! Clue six, a tropical forest: done. We could head back south the way we came, cutting across country back down to Cambridge. We arrived at Base Camp at Eight in the evening, with the last light dying. We were tired, aching and my bum had gone on strike, but we'd done the first six and we were on our way!
We'd done about 280 motorcycle miles on this trip. Hadn't used the tent in anger yet, but I was dimly aware that we'd just done the easy bit and that there was a long, long way to go if I stood a chance of lifting that award...
Back at home, we pondered the next leg and the daughter, Chloe (11), decided she wanted in. We chose to hit Devon and Cornwall next, ignoring the clues in between for a later foray.
Watch this space...
Fancy The Landmark Challenge?
The Triumph Owners' MCC will be delighted to fill you in on all the details.
Read Graham's first installment of life with Daisy here.
Graham Ham's books are available from Amazon in 'Kindle' and 'Proper' format. Click here to read more....
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