What do you do on a Bank Holiday Weekend? Think I'l
So. It's a bank holiday weekend. You've got it all off. What? - 500 miles? Oh go on then...
The Royal British Legion Riders Branch 1000 was established in 2009 to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal and to encourage riders to challenge themselves in a uniquely supportive event. It also gains the participants who complete the ride an Iron Butt Certificate.
This year’s ride is on Saturday 24th June with the start and finish at Squires Café Bar.
As a member of the Yorkshire Branch I was aware of this challenge and voiced my interest in undertaking it last year to our current chairman, David Scott-Wells, who has amassed a few Iron Butt certificates and offered to accompany me.
Word are easy, actions are not so before signing up to such a task and obtaining sponsorship from friends and family I wanted to know in myself if I was actually capable of undertaking this challenge.
As the Easter bank holiday drew close I decided to test myself with a straightforward 500 miles in 12 hours. This would be my benchmark as to whether I would go ahead and register for the event or not.
So where to go for 500 miles? My usual days out on my bike vary from 100 to 300 miles depending on which group of friends I am with. I needed a focal point so decided on the Scottish Town of Ayr where I went to senior school and was based as a Student Nurse in training. Now I had a focal point I was rather excited.
I watched the weather forecast and was pleased when they suggested it would be light showers only. So I set my alarm for 5am to be out and off at first light.
4:30 am and I am wide awake. Dressed, coffee drunk and cereal eaten and I’m in the garage for 5:30. I ride a Triumph Tiger 800 XRX and having been out on the bike the previous day I had given her the once over before putting her away so all that was left to do was check and adjust my tyre pressures. I was never in any doubt that the bike would be capable, I was just doubting myself. I reset the trip meter and took the obligatory picture logging the time, 6am.
I was a bit dismayed at the temperature reading of 6 degrees but convinced myself it would soon warm up. The recent spell of mild weather has spoilt me, but I had been sensible and put a decent base layer on underneath my textiles and went back into the garage to retrieve my heated gloves from a shelf.
6:04am and I was off while my mind was remembering the text messages from close friends asking me if I was mad.
The roads were dry with only the odd car for company. Nice steady ride towards York where I topped up my fuel at the Tesco’s at Clifton Moor. I had set my Sat Nav to avoid motorways so I expected it to surprise me with a route known only to it and a cartographer. So off we headed onto the A19 and as I predicted I was soon off the beaten track through the lovely villages of Tollerton, Flawith, Helperby, Cundall and heading towards Thirsk. By this point the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees and my legs were aching from the cold, but my hands were warm.
I reached the A6055 and rode parallel with the A1 noting how busy that looked compared to my quiet road. Eventually I had no choice but to merge onto the A1 just as the road works and the 50mph limit is in force and headed up to Scotch Corner. At least it had warmed up to 8 degrees.
I then kicked a left onto the A66 which again had very little traffic on it and was rather bleak and reached Penrith at 9am. Fuel for bike and a warming hot chocolate for me and a sad realisation that I had only travelled 139 miles in 3 hours. The sat nav was telling me I would arrive in Ayr by 11:40 so slightly warmed up I headed off on the A6 towards Gretna Green. I then took the A75 then onto the A76 and then the fun started. So much for the weather report of light showers, the heavens opened and I was drenched and at risk of my joints seizing up. This was the only time on the journey that I really doubted both my existence and my ability. As I reached the town of Cumnock the rain suddenly stopped and I began to recognise familiar roads passing through villages I remember from the daily school bus journey. I reached Ayr and passed by what used to be Ayr County Hospital but has been demolished and is now apartments. I headed out towards Doonfoot and to what was Seafield Childrens Hospital and the stable block that was the Nurses Residence but that sadly was surrounded by metal fencing and was cordoned off and looking as if building work was underway.
As if I wasn’t wet enough the heavens opened again so I turned right to the seafront where the tide was in and a gale force wind was blowing. Heading back into the centre I passed a couple of other landmarks, The Pavillion that we spent most Saturday and Sunday nights listening to groups or rock music – it is now a soft play area for kids, and the ice cream parlour and the corner of Wellington Square where I had my first holiday job.
Memory lane revisited I had to get on with the task in hand and fuel both me and the bike up so headed for the nearest large Tesco store where over another hot chocolate and scrambled eggs I tried to decide the next part of my route.
Suitably topped up I headed out on the B743. By now it was dry and sunny and a tropical 12 degrees.
The scenery was lovely, the road surface left a lot to be desired. On reaching Mauchline I stopped for a red light. Looking up two very large rabbits surrounded by about ten bikers walked into view. On riding around the corner the local primary school playground was awash with bikers, at least 100 in my quick estimate. Also present was a Police car and two Police Motorbikes. Googling when I got home it was the annual Hillbillies MCC Easter Egg Run and it looked to be very well supported.
I reached the M74 and had an uneventful ride back to Gretna Green where I topped the bike up with fuel and me with painkillers. It was now 13 degrees and my kit had dried out but I was still chilled and ached. I headed towards Scotch Corner and onto the A1 which I instantly regretted with the road works and 50mph limit and a lead car in each lane determinedly sticking to 45-47 mph.
As soon as I could I got off the A1 and headed towards Northallerton and back onto familiar roads, but I had to weigh up mileage and time so sadly dropped back onto the A19 and home to Hull feeling elated and in a creditable 509 miles in 11 hours and 56 minutes.
Roll on 24th June and 1000 miles in 24 hours.
If you are interested in becoming involved with Royal British Legion or signing up for an Iron Butt event click on the appropriate images below