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13th April 2006
The Longest Day
Down yere in the West Country, there's a strong tradition of celebrating the summer solstice. So it was only natural that a bunch of RC riders should go RC'ing about on Dartmoor on June21st last year...
Some things happen on the spur of the moment. Other things, although full of spontaneity, have a longish lead time. Sometime in 2004 AndyC bought a rather interesting Triumph Daytona. A Meriden one.
C-range units are right up there on my list of most beloved motorcycles and I was keen to give his new bike the benefit of my experience, strength and hope. However he does live a hundred and twenty miles away and I'm not a mile-eating Tony Page sort of a cove. So I emailed to ask when he'd next be on Dartmoor. 'The Longest Day, I always take the Longest Day off work', he replied. Coincidence upon coincidence, not only does AndyC have great taste in Triumphs, but he and I both celebrate the summer solstice.
We rounded up all the usual suspects to see if some sort of plan would emerge. A65Bill wondered what we'd be a-doing of on motorcycles on Dartmoor on the Longest Day and when I replied 'no idea really' he said it sounded like his sort of event.
FrankW said the best way to organise these things is to tell people the where and when of meals and leave the rest to chance. More music to my ears - I spend much of my working life organising stuff and don't want to be taking responsibility for much on my days off.
AndyC came up with the idea of seeing a few standing stones as a way of acknowledging the solsticeness of it all and I found us a suitable meeting up point mid-way between my house and Andy's.
On the day the Toad Of Work kept our numbers down as did some insect bites. Frank even took the trouble to drive to the rendezvous to give us all a good send off, despite the fact that he and Rowena were suffering greatly from a mosquito attack the previous weekend.
So we drank some coffee and set off for lostness. Seadog and I on our T140s, Dee J and Anita on the T150, and Dave Barkshire on that SS80.
A note on seeing Dave's Brough for the first time - it just took over almost all the free space in my mind. It's so engineered, so black, so chrome, so fine.
I'm not too good on the witty observations bit... but we greatly enjoyed the run. As you observed at the time, a T150 is a great bimbling bike and can potter along at country lane speed just as easily as at motorway speed. Mind you I don't think any of the spectators noticed any of the bikes except the Brough - kind of put the rest of us in the shade.
I'm trying to remember the ride and the most vivid points were probably looking out across the moor where we walked up to the high point and being completely shattered when I got home. The Bruff needs 'driving' and in Devon that means being quite physical (steering, gear changes, braking, moving body weight etc) and before arriving home after about seven hours riding I stopped for a pee and had trouble starting the motor again as I was completely exhausted and too weak to kick properly! Maybe not being 20 anymore has something to do with it.
I think that the fatigue is all about the roads travelled. When I rode back from Norwich the roads were reasonably flat and straight and all that I had to do was to sit there and enjoy the view. When riding in the Wild West it can feel like a race track at times and with the Bruff I have to work fairly hard with constant gear changes and 'driving' it around the bends. The gear lever travel is quite long and the muscles at the top of the thigh start to fatigue along with the clutch hand. Maybe I should slow down but the excitement of the ride takes over.
For many years of my bimbling life I have always taken the 21st of June off as a holiday, a day that I treat as entirely my own. Over the years I have made pilgrimages to various standing stones, other times just bimbled wherever the mood takes me, time being irrelevant - well almost.
With this in mind I made a posting to the RC notice board, wondering if there were any RCers out there who might be interested in joining me. Well, indeed there were, in the end there must have been something like between five to ten RCers that had agreed to meet at a designated service station fairly close to Dartmoor, and we were going to follow a route designed by NVNL.
So, in the week leading up to the 21st I got myself mentally prepared to meet these various RCers, and made sure that the Daytona was in good fettle. All was going well until a couple of days before the grand bimble, when the Daytona started to cut out for no apparent reason (Joe Lucas aside). Now as I was determined to ride the Daytona, I spent quite a considerable time trying to fix the problem. I checked virtually all the connections to the Boyer, all earth points, plugs, you name it, I gave it the once over.
On the morning of the bimble I was sure that I had it fixed, so off I set at 7.30am (or something like that) full of expectation, only to be given a firm smack in the teeth by the Daytona. After 20 or so miles -- you guessed it -- it cut out. Now considering that the other guys were only down around Dartmoor, I am surprised that they didn't hear the numerous four letter expletives that were aimed at the Daytona! Lucky there were no hazel branches around, otherwise it could have turned into that infamous scene from Fawlty Towers, anyway.
Still determined to join the bimble (after all I did instigate it), after starting the Daytona, I headed home and picked up the Bullet - incidentally the Daytona did not miss a beat on the way home…
After checking the Bullet over, and getting it fuelled up, I dropped NVNL a text message to confirm that I was still on the way.
I rode from here in Street, down to Taunton, then onto Exeter, taking the A38 then off the A38 onto the A382 across the edge of Dartmoor towards Whiddon Down. Time was getting on and I realised that I would never make the original rendezvous, so another txt was sent, explaining the situation. No prob, we suggested that I meet up with everyone at Princetown. Looked good to me, right in the middle of Dartmoor and I was well on the way there.
The Bullet was running faultlessly, and I was enjoying every minute. Perhaps I was just so immersed in the experience, after all it was a glorious sunny day, that I lost track of time somewhat - probably stopped to many times on Dartmoor soaking up the scenery and the sun.
The bottom line is that I got to Princetown around 1.30 ish. I was sure that I could smell the odour of burned oil in the air and I saw some fresh oil drips on the ground! Perhaps I could even hear the distant sound of a British four-stroke in the distance… I only missed the guys by about 10 minutes or so.
Not being to despondent about the whole thing, after a swift pint and some grub (what was that pub in Princetown called?), I pressed on. I did consider seeing if I could make Land's End, but decided against it as it would mean pressing on really hard, and I was in laid-back mode by now.
I decided to cut across Dartmoor heading towards Tavistock, from Tavistock I headed down the A390 towards Liskeard. On my map Liskeard was actually on the same page as Land's End, but time was getting on, so I decided to head home. I took a different route home, heading back to Tavistock, taking the A386 onto Okehampton (was there really a place called 'Chip Shop' I saw signposted along that road?). I have to say that the scenery along this road was superb, Dartmoor to the right, and the view out towards Barnstaple and Bideford bay to the other side, indeed RCHQ Bude not being that far away.
At Okehampton I took the A3072 to Crediton, eventually heading to Tiverton, then Wellington, Taunton, finally home. The Bullet was well suited to the 3072, plenty of twisties, lots of small villages, unfortunately I did get caught behind a large truck heading towards Tiverton, and there was no opportunity for overtaking. What did I do? I pulled over and admired the scenery for a half an hour or so.
I arrived home safe and sound. The Bullet had not missed a beat, I was content and sunburnt - c'mon we have all done it, you take off your shades and you look like a bloody panda!
The only downside was that I never met up with the RCers, but I really appreciated the txts and emails that I received over the following days. So what was the problem with the Daytona? It was the battery; it registered something like 7.5-volts. A new one was fitted, and the charging circuit checked. That battery has been on the bike ever since, and it has not missed a beat since.
Roll on 21st June 2006…
About 21st June 2006 - we'll be on Exmoor this time, do come along. It'll be Dave's turn to get us lost…
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