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2nd September 2004

(Not Really) The South West Motorcycle Show

Very often the best bit about going to a bike event is, ahh, going to a bike event. NVNL started off with poetry, got stuck in traffic, made friends with a foreigner and had a damn good ride on his T140...

En Arche (In The First Place)
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

TS Eliot, 'Little Gidding'

An old saw is a useful and much valued tool. These four lines have become an old saw over the decades; they turn up all over the place and have a general familiarity. Like many people I first came across them in John Fowles' book 'The Magus' when I was but a teenager and foolish enough to think that TS Eliot was tedious and difficult. Anyway they pop up now and then and have become coin of the realm (pre-decimal, probably). Exploration and knowing happen on all sorts of levels and in all sorts of scales and the meaning of the quatrain can be can readily be reduced to 'it's nice to go on holiday, but it's even nicer to come home again' - my mum circa 1960 and repeatedly thereafter.

Joining Up

Being by nature a shy and reclusive person I was pulled up a little sharp in March 2004 when I received my RealClassic membership card but resolved in an instant at least to make the effort to join in, probably from the kitchen. Most of it is easy enough but the RC events bit remains a real challenge. My appetite for long journeys was sated back in the Dark Ages and Cornwall is a long way from anywhere.

Another three pipe problem.

The solution turned out to be on our events page; the South West Motorcycle Show at Westpoint near Exeter with the RealClassic Road Show at the heart of the classic bike display, admission ten pounds. Exeter is only 65 miles from the Eclectic Shed, which is perfectly do-able, the show was on the August Bank Holiday weekend which meant even I could not chicken out and go in the car rather than on the bike AND I bought my riding jacket at Westpoint at a CBG thing at the end of the last century. So there we are, on one particular level and in one particular scale my jacket would be arriving where it started and knowing the place for the first time, which was nice.

Planning The Journey To The East

The day dawned misty and cloudy at home, and although there were clear blue skies in Norfolk, by at least one report, I was convinced that locally the rain would pour like urine after an eight-pint lunch. Years of experience have taught me that the major roads in Cornwall and South Devon often turn into caravan parks on August Bank Holiday weekend. The route plan was to get from here to there without travelling along major roads. This is easy to a competent navigator and as a former despatch rider...

The anticipation of precipitation not just in sight but actually landing on me with great force meant fit for purpose jacket, gloves, boots and trousers - all modern stuff except for well-oiled German paratrooper boots. That's it really, apart from checking the engine oil and being too lazy to get the tyre pressure gauge out.

Proof Of Pudding

Trundled off about half ten. The hands and feet fell easily to the controls, as they should after twenty years. Within a mile I had crossed the grid locked A38 and was on Bodmin moor. Hello sheep, hello ponies. Virtually no traffic until Callington and on past Kit Hill to Gunnislake where in the queue for the traffic lights I fell in with some old geezer on a Flying Brick (BMW K100). We exchanged a few words of seemingly jovial greeting but I doubt if either of us could hear the other. We pressed on together sedately over the Tamar (very pretty wooded valley) and into the near gridlock of Tavistock. Having made short work of that we were off towards Two Bridges and Dartmoor. Past Higher Longton I pulled over for a smoke and matey gave me a companionable wave as he sailed by.

Small T140, big sky

At this point I discovered the flaw in my preparations and rode into Princetown to buy a disposable lighter. Princetown Carnival was in full swing with cheery trestle tables and plant stalls and, well not much else. I have a funny relationship with Princetown as I go there to do prison visits occasionally at Bleak House (HMP Dartmoor), I always leave the place feeling downcast. Still, even the birds are chained to the sky, or so the Frenchman has it.

This particular morning we had weak sunshine with a light breeze as I paused to chat to a young South African on a Yamaha Diversion. His family left Port Navas in Cornwall a few generations ago and he was touring around, so I pointed out Cadson Fort, Kit Hill and Dozmary Pool. (Character-wise this is my equivalent of A65Bill spontaneously opening his house and garden to thirteen French Scooterists).

Off again through loads and loads and loads of purple heather to Moretonhampstead and into Exeter. Princetown to Moretonhampstead -- lovely riding, even better if you get off and walk. I've always said that on Bank Holidays it's easier to drive through Exeter than it is to drive round it. Not this day, they've changed the One-Way system for starters, and it was grid locked going out on the Eastern side.

At one point I was so lost (follow me I am a despatch rider...) and overheated that I parked up outside HMP Exeter to restore my sense of perspective; this part of the journey was not going well. In the gridlock thereafter I found myself in a stop-start queue with double white lines on one side, a footpath on the other and a police car in front of me. I was melting in my riding gear but I couldn't remember whether the offence was CROSSING the double white line or OVERTAKING within the double white line.

After a little while the police driver stuck his head out of the window and beckoned me forward. 'You'd better filter through,' he said, 'there's been an accident on the motorway and we'll be here for a long time.'

Nice guy, meet 'em everywhere.

Thanks too to LAB who subsequently gave me a good steer on this via the message board. (Hands up who doesn't know? TP)

Halfway House

So I left Exeter and pootled into the showground. I had two fivers handy for my admission. The man at the gate asked me if I was a mature student, I said 'No, Old Git' and he let me in for a fiver. Another nice guy, Kevin Ayres would have had a field day.

Having run the gauntlet of the noise and fried onions I was relieved to see the august company of the RC Roadshow, obviously the chill out area du jour, and the friendly faces of Rowena, Frank, Emm and the Toaster. While Steve and Emm went off in search of lunch Frank and Rowena plonked me down in a silk-upholstered chair and plied me with cooling sherbet and regaled me with RC tales. Rowena was wearing a new hat from the Dior stand, or was it the stand by the door? It was hard to hear clearly against the wall of sound (and it wasn't Phil Spectre either).

Five star groovy A10 Spitfire. It says here...

The event itself was... not to my taste. However thousands of other people were having an absolute ball and therefore it was a jolly good event. Lots of modern bikes, though I did take a shine to the MVs, and riding gear. I hate riding gear; it's the worst thing about motorcycling apart from the getting cold and wet. Chanced upon the NABD (National Association for Bikers with Disability) stand and as they'd helped me put with a project earlier this year put the unused section of my admission fee in their donations bucket. The Exeter British Bike Club's stand was lovely and included a five star groovy A10 Spitfire with high pipes and a small tank, there was also an AJ combo complete with dog.

Growwf. Grrrr....

Back to the RC Roadshow to say farewell and touch the hem of the RealClassic Tablecloth. Then depart.

Going Home Is Such A Ride

After all the heat and noise I was happy to see the M5 was empty so I abandoned my plans for a natural history tour of Dartmoor and blatted home at a respectable speed. For once I didn't see my favourite potato lorry on that stretch - it bears the slogan 'EAT MORE CHIPS' (I will anyway).

Even after all these years I still love riding my bike and the moorland rides were relaxing and uplifting, the city bits and the M5/A30 bit quite the reverse. Another plus for the day, it's always good to leave a prison or two in your wake. Overall I had an absolutely cracking day out and I felt really good when sitting again by the pool in the Eclectic Shed with Mrs NVNL and the dogs, while Rufus the Co-op Bonnie tinked and tocked his way down to a reasonable temperature. My old saw's in the shed somewhere.

Next time I want to go to a show I'll get in touch with Anarchy, Busaflyer or Fido to see if they've been painting and need someone to keep a careful eye on the drying process, preferably somewhere quiet.

['Eat More Chips' is the slogan of D.Mortimer & Sons from Melksham - who also sponsor world endurance team Yamaha Phase One Endurance. Small world, eh? RealMart]


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