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30th October 2003

Daisy's Diary - The Landmark Challenge 2002 Part III

Graham Ham and his sprung-hub Triumph Speed Twin march onwards across Britain in the Triumph Club's Landmark Challenge. This time they encounter Nessie (not), Daisy blows astern, and all's not well with the sparks...

There was no avoiding it. With East Anglia, Lincolnshire, Devon, Cornwall and the south out of the way, it was time to tackle the north, Cumbria and Scotland. We'd knocked off another five Landmarks since Devon and Cornwall, all local ones in the South, so our total count stood at 20.

We set off very early for Base Camp, and we exited Cambridge on Daisy at a little after 7am, heading towards Peterborough and the A1. Our first Landmark was some 70 miles north, and we aimed to take a leisurely ride to get there by 9am. The sun was burning off the early mist and we settled down to cruising at 60, stopping for tea and a ciggie every now and then. We arrived at the landmark, Belvoir Castle, almost bang on time. Daisy had been given some attention since the Devon leg, and was running faultlessly. We stopped for an ice-cream, and looked at the map. We had to get back to the A1, and then head straight north again for about 85 or 90 miles. This I reckoned should take a couple of hours, if the old backside would hold out!

Bus load of Japanese tourists not shown

So off we went again, Daisy thrumming along happily at 65-70. It began to dawn on me that the A1 is actually quite a pleasant road and I was surprised at the sheer number of cafés, tea huts and caravans which reside in the numerous lay-bys, tempting me with their bacon sarnies. Without warning, however, it turned into an 'orrible motorway! We stuck to the nearside lane and everything was going so well that I decided to let Daisy stretch her legs a bit. 75, 80 and 85 duly ticked up, at which point the speedo needle decided; 'that's quite enough of that, thank you.' It started to bounce between 20 and 90mph and all over the place in between...

Daisy was making a most satisfactory howl, but the vibration was awesome. The speedo wasn't happy until I got back down to about 70mph. The vibration at this speed was much less, so I decide to sit there as it seemed to be Daisy's 'smooth spot'. The motorway duly became dual-carriageway and lay-bys again and we settled down to an enjoyable ride -- but an urgent tapping on my shoulder suggested that all may not be well at the back. Son Chris had noticed that we were about to lose our tents! We pulled up, got it sorted and headed off once more to arrive at our next Landmark, an air museum, just after 11am.

We needed to take a detour east to pick off the next Landmark, but it seemed to be only about 15 miles away so we appeared to have plenty of time. The weather was getting warmer as we progressed through the day, Daisy was behaving remarkably well and all was well with the world - until Newcastle. We couldn't find the Landmark at all. It should have been south-east of Gateshead. We checked the reference and we knew it was right, but we couldn't actually find it on the ground!

So round and round we went, asking locals and generally wasting time, until in desperation I phoned Ken Kalbot, the TOMCC organiser and asked him to confirm what and where it was. Turned out that we'd got the answer to the clue wrong and had spent the last hour and a half looking for the wrong thing! Ken duly put us right, and we headed once again towards Gateshead, threading our way through the green lanes from where we had ended up.

Quick! It's stopped raining - take a photo...

We broached the top of a hill, down into a sweeping bend the other side and - waaah!

Daisy lost it completely! We plummeted into an almighty tank-slapper that ended with us careening to a halt diagonally across the road, hearts pounding and knees trembling like crazy. I think Chris nearly swallowed his tongue, judging by the gurgling noises coming from the back. We sat, motionless, for about two minutes. Neither of us moved or spoke but eventually we came around to inspect Daisy.

The problem? A puncture. And -- you guessed it - it was in the sprung-hub rear tyre, which is as depressing as it gets. There was no way I was going to attempt a repair out there in the sticks, so we decided to get Carole Nash out to pick us up and take us to the nearest campsite. We were in the middle of the countryside and the only landmark I could see, on the horizon, was the Angel of the North. We had all sorts of fun trying to explain exactly where we were, but eventually the guy on the phone decided he could find us.

So we waited. I thought about the gruesome task ahead of me - getting the back wheel off -- and it was not a comforting thought. A guy on a Harley stopped (bless 'im!), explanations followed, and without further ado he offered to go and get an inner tube from his garage, which he assured me would fit. He returned 15 minutes later with tyre levers, a pump and the inner tube which was indeed exactly right - he insisted I keep them, and would accept no payment!

Hurrah for Harley-riding Mark in Gateshead. What a nice man.

Halfway up?

I shan't pain you with the details, but we duly got it fixed the next morning and eventually set off around 11.30, five hours late, with bruised temper and drooping spirits. But that soon faded - Scotland here we come! I'd never been there, so I was looking forward to it. Past Newcastle and onwards north; the weather was holding as we peeled off the A1 and onto the A697, heading for Coldstream. All seemed well for a while, but our luck was obviously on the turn downwards - Daisy started to misfire. We stopped in a nasty lay-by full of rubbish, and Chris got the camping stove out for a brew whilst I began to tinker with Daisy. I couldn't find anything obviously wrong so I changed the plugs and cleaned all the HT connections.

We set off again, but Daisy still wasn't happy. I discovered that as long as I built up the revs slooowly, the misfire didn't occur. We managed to cruise along at 65 or so, but my mind was pondering what could be the cause of such symptoms - we were a very long way from home...

As we pulled into Coldstream, Daisy forced me to deal with the problem by stopping dead and refusing to start again. We saw a pleasant little camp site by the river Tweed, pushed Daisy down to it and set up camp early. And then I knew our luck was gone, as a dark, threatening sky began to creep overhead and a steady drizzle started falling. By the time camp was set up the light had faded to nothing. We decided to leave Daisy until morning.

Halfway back down again?

We were up at 6am, and it was raining. There was nothing for it, so out I went to look for the trouble. I'd done HT and plugs, OK check for sparks. They were there, but erratic and very weak. Pulled off the magneto cap, and -- voila -- the points had fallen apart! The little rivet that holds the contact itself onto the arm had come off, and the little round contact was laying in the cap. It was also apparent that the whole assembly was loose and flapping about. Using pliers I eventually managed to effect a repair on the contact, then tightened everything back up. She started first kick, but we weren't sure how long it would last.

Should we carry on, or strike for home? Isn't this why God gave us Carole Nash's rescue service? So we went onwards and upwards - bulldog spirit and all that! We set off towards Edinburgh. The misfire was gone, and the journey uneventful. We had trouble locating the next Landmark, again, but eventually we got it and easily found the next one as it was the Royal Yacht Brittannia. Finally, by mid-afternoon, we were through Edinburgh, and striking out towards Perth on the M90.

With Perth behind us, we branched onto the A9 and headed into the looming Grampian Mountain range. The weather was getting worse, and as we got into the mountains proper, I had the interesting experience of looking DOWN at clouds from the road! Then the heavens opened, and we were battered by heavy rain until, at 7pm, we were desperate for a campsite. We found a sign and followed it to what, in better weather, would have been an ideal site. A rushing river tumbled along and we camped on its banks. This turned out, without doubt, to be the most miserable evening on the whole challenge, with all our gear soaked and all our spare clothes soaked. We spent time huddled in the launderette trying to get warm and dry, watching our clothes spin round and round. The nearest pub was three miles away so we didn't bother, and we scratched a meal together as best we could.

Are we having fun yet?

The weather was much improved the next morning -- thank the stars. We broke camp at 7am, and set off for a fantastic day's riding through the mountains up to Elgin, east of Inverness. The rain held off, with just the odd shower. The highlight of the day was coming over the crest of a hill, and seeing a railway line coming alongside the road. As we approached the stretch with the line running next to it, we noticed an old steam train coming across and heading the same way. We ended up side by side with the steam engine, thundering along. The old buffer driving the thing (all whiskers and oily rags) started hanging off his foot plate and waving at us, giving me the 'throttle' signal - he wanted a burn up! Unfortunately he was gone as quickly as he appeared, as the railway line peeled off to the east but it was a truly exhilarating moment.

We knocked off the next Landmark (which, bizarrely, was a petrol station) and turned west towards Inverness. Over the Firth of Inverness we went, and headed north again on a delightful coastal road. Daisy was running fine, so the repair was obviously holding. We spotted a number of North Sea oil platforms 'parked' in an estuary; they look pretty impressive.

Up to our next Landmark -- Shin Falls -- where we stopped for a late lunch, and failed to see any salmon leaping the falls. We were looking forward to the afternoon ride back down to Inverness, and onto Loch Ness, but as we left the weather deteriorated with a rapidity that was startling. By the time we got back to Inverness (later than anticipated courtesy of a broken clutch cable which I had to replace), we were soaked again. We struggled on down to Loch Ness but decided that camping in torrential rain a second night was not a sensible option. We got lucky when we found Fiddler's Bar at Drumnadrochit, who had one B&B room left. So there we stopped, had a good meal and some fine ale before retiring to the luxury of a real, dry, bed.

So, up at 7am again, we breakfasted and collected all our gear, which we had hanging all round our room to dry. Daisy looked strangely clean as I loaded her up - that Scottish rain must be better than our stuff! Heading down alongside Loch Ness, we stopped briefly at the famous Urquhart Castle. The weather was drizzling but bearable as we left the Loch behind and rode on down to Loch Oich and our next Landmark, the well of seven heads. It's a gruesome story, but a peaceful place. After a quick brew, off we trotted again, heading for what must be the best experience I'd had so far. The ride between Fort William and Glasgow is nothing short of breathtaking. Fantastic views, wonderful roads and just an all round uplifting experience.

We found a Scotsman in his kilt playing bagpipes in a lay-by - obviously a tourist attraction, but we got him to sit on Daisy for a photo anyway !

Like some scary demented biscuit tin lid looming out of the fog...

Through Glasgow we went, into Lanarkshire, to knock off a beam engine Landmark, and headed south for Cumbria and what must be the TOMCC Birmingham and Wolves lads' little joke. Our next Landmark turned out to be a Roman Fort, half way through the Coniston hill range in the Lake District. The road, if it could be called such a thing, that leads to this fort is quite indescribable. At several points we had to stop and unload Daisy, as the near vertical 'road' with the right angle, bend five feet up, was dangerous enough solo! Nice one boys - remind me to take you there on Daisy's pillion some day...

Eventually we got there, and got back to civilization, and the ride home south from there was uneventful. We managed to pick off another five northern Landmarks on the way, and the repair on the magneto held out. Well done to both Daisy and Chris on this leg - it was both long and arduous but we put paid to a further seventeen Landmarks all told before we ran out of time.

So with the 20 already in the bag before this foray, that was 39 down and only Wales and West Midlands (well Shropshire) to go. Watch this space for the final foray.

Graham Ham's books are available from Amazon in 'Kindle' and 'Proper' format. Click here to read more....


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