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3rd December 2003

Daisy's Diary Part IV: The Landmark Challenge 2002

Graham Ham is on his last legs, it says here. Oh, sorry; we mean he's on the last leg of the Triumph Club's Landmark Challenge. Will he and Daisy the sprung-hub Triumph Speed Twin complete their mammoth round-Britain ride?

This was it. With 39 of the required 50 Landmarks already down we only had Wales, one Midlands and one West Midlands Landmark to go. I reckoned that by comparison with the trips to Scotland and the North, this one would be a walk in the park. So we set off with high spirits!

Fantastic. No smart-arse caption could ever do this photo justice.

We were going to pick off the Midlands first, before heading up and turning into North Wales. From there we planned do a big circuit. The weather was fine and Daisy seemed to be running better than ever. She'd had her magneto sorted out, and nothing should have been able to get in our way this time. After all, we were now veterans of the Scottish Highlands and what could be more challenging than that trip? I had found out that the dreadful weather we experienced in Scotland caused the worst flooding in many areas since records began.

Chloe was riding pillion this time. We headed across country at a steady 65, picking off Santa Pod on the way and stopping occasionally for tea and a bum rest. Again, we'd allowed plenty of time for this leg so we weren't hurrying ourselves. Early afternoon saw us pull up without incident at Shipton Hall, in Shropshire. We were enjoying the hazy sunshine in good old English countryside and, as we contemplated the map, I saw no reason to use big roads. We plotted a cross-country course, heading north-west towards Wales.

Shrewsbury came and went, as did Oswestry, and then we turned north up towards Wrexham. I was heading for the north coast road, the A55, because it's a favourite of mine. I love the tunnels that claw through the headlands in Conwy - especially on an old twin!

Has anyone else noticed that the weather always looks like this when Graham goes for a ride?

Time was getting on. As we joined the A55, we started to think about looking for a campsite. The light began to fade so I turned on Daisy's glow-worms and - oh! No lights. A quick check confirmed that the battery was dead, and there was nothing registering on the ammeter when the engine was running. I didn't notice this earlier because the instruments are tank-mounted on Daisy and I had a tank bag which covered them up! Clearly the need for a campsite had become fairly urgent...

We headed west with the light steadily failing, and I was getting uncomfortable. I spied a Travelodge sign and turned off. We didn't want the expense, but it was better than dying in the dark. But as we pulled off, however, we saw a little camping sign pointing up a track - so up we went. Sure enough there was a campsite. Not many facilities, but we were well armed with scran and tinnies!

Chloe did the honours with the grub, whilst I made camp. In half an hour we were watching a full moon rise while we feasted -- Chloe was delighted to discover that there was a big local bunny population. In the distance we could see a pub up on a hill, glowing invitingly, so after dinner we set out to find it on foot. Several jars and a brisk walk later I was ready for bed after what had been a most pleasant day.

Up at 7am on a misty morning, we soon arranged bacon and scrambled eggs with lashings of hot tea. We broke camp and set off again, heading west into Conwy.

Dam it.

We made a brief detour south to stop at the next Landmark, Bodnant Garden, and off along my favourite bit of road. Half an hour later, after making plenty of noise in those tunnels, we crossed the Menai straight and into Anglesey, heading for RAF Valley - our next stop.

Everything was going swimmingly. Daisy was lapping it up, we'd made good time and it was still early yet. I was just contemplating the day's ride ahead when I was abruptly jerked back to reality - Daisy stopped without warning! Oh bugger. We coasted to a halt on the hard shoulder, and it was immediately apparent what was wrong. There was a strong smell of petrol and it was all over the gearbox and oil tank - the pipe had split and all of the vital liquid had oozed away onto the road. I managed to cut the pipe back and effect a repair - but we were in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing for it but to start pushing and hope that salvation would come along...

I needn't have worried as it turned out - 200 yards up the road, hidden behind a bank, there was a family with a caravan. The chap had a can of go-go juice and was quite happy to sell me a few litres so I could get to the next town. So that was all right then, and we were soon on our way again.

RAF Valley, our next landmark, was duly knocked off, and we headed back to Conwy, where we were due to turn south on the A487 before peeling off east on the A4085 through Snowdonia. We had a most satisfactory ride with very special scenery and lovely roads. Daisy took it all in her stride, and we eventually joined the A487 again on the other side, feeling wonderfully fresh and deeply contented.

Chloe tries to make a break for the border and the nearest social services office...

Cross-country we meandered, eventually arriving at our next Landmark, a lake that I can't pronounce, where we partook of an ice-cream before setting out west again. We were having a whale of a time, and these roads were absolutely made for Daisy. The weather was fine, as we rode down into Corris, where our next Landmark awaited - a steam museum. A ciggie and a 15 minute break, and we were off again, heading inland towards the south-east. This was slow going, as the traffic was quite heavy and the dread caravans were out in force, but it was quite good fun weaving in and out of the traffic, waiting our chance to hop past and tucking back in to miss the oncoming caravans!

We arrived for a very late lunch at the next Landmark, a silver mine, which handily has a nice little café opposite. We contemplated the map again, and I realised that this leg has been the most pleasant of all. I was still feeling fresh and relaxed. It was about 4.30pm and we had about 60 miles left to do that day. We planned to camp near the next Landmark, Cilgerran Castle. So off we went again, back to the coast, and turning south-west along the piggie's nose.

A brief stop in Aberaeron (for a cash machine) saw us accosted by an old boy who wanted to know (demanded to know is probably more accurate), why I've got the sprung hub fitted to such an early machine. I told him that it sort of came with the bike, which caused him to lecture me about it not being right for the year... What a silly man! We eventually shook him off and continued on our way.

The rest of the day was uneventful and thoroughly enjoyable. We knocked off Cilgerran Castle, and found a most enchanting campsite, close to a lovely little village which boasted a nice big pub next to a superb white-water river. As the sun went down, the bunnies came out so Chloe spent a happy hour stalking 'em before we visited the little bar on site where we camped -- they even had a comedian on who was, surprisingly, quite good. We retired at about 11pm, well satisfied with the day - we'd picked off six Landmarks on top of yesterday's two - and there were only three to go for the full 50. So we were just three stops short of achieving the Landmark Challenge, and on a bike over 50 years old.

a photograph of Daisy in the mist, in front of the rapids, with the sun rising behind her.

6am: scrambled eggs, bacon and tea - in the misty Welsh countryside, just after dawn. Fantastic! We paused at the rapids down the road, where we got a photograph of Daisy in the mist, in front of the rapids, with the sun rising behind her. And off we went, straight across country, heading south-east, following the river all the way down. We stopped at several places to enjoy the scenery, because it was that good. Once through Carmarthan we turned east again, but before long we were forced to join the M4 heading for Cardiff (poo and poo again!). Daisy settled down at a steady 70 and it seemed no time at all before we were getting our picture at the next Landmark - a medieval village.

We rumbled north from there into the Brecon Beacons, for the next one, a Naval Church, before turning east again for our final triumphant Landmark - Helen's stately home at Much Marcle, back in England. We had a tinnie to celebrate (coke for Chloe) and I was moved to give Daisy an emotional kiss on her tank. I was feeling immensely, almost childishly, happy. She could blow up now, have as many punctures as she pleased and divest herself of magneto parts at leisure - we'd done it!

Picture taken before the dog got stuck to the repainted front mudguard.And that's that. The 250 miles we still had to do to get home were a trivial detail...

I calculated that Daisy clocked something like 4600 miles on the Landmark Challenge in 2002 (I originally thought it to be about 3600 miles but have since worked out the exact routes). We had a few dramas, but hell, she's 54 years old... so who can blame her? And the kids deserve a round of applause too. All that way, with a rucksack, and only a pad bolted to the mudguard to sit on...? No thanks!

Oh, and one more thing. We raised £1450 for the charity. So that's all right then!

The Landmark Trophy, spangly great thing, sits on the mantelpiece at home and I wonder, every time I look at it, if anybody will challenge Daisy for it next year ?

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

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


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