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So What Did YOU Do In The Summer?

Back in the middle of Summer, around the lightest night/longest day, one of our Group did something 'off the wall'.

An 'Iron Butt' ride. 1000 miles in 24 hours. Here's Rosie's story of Mid Summer Madness!

Excitement was reaching its peak as I rode into Squires car park on the afternoon of 23rd June as requested by the organisers to register.

My bike had recently been serviced and a new rear tyre fitted as was a sheepskin seat pad kindly gifted by a friend. I had programmed my Garmin sat-nav, I had the route downloaded on Google maps on my i-phone and I had the route written down junction by junction in a plastic wallet in my tank bag. I had also, as advised by other seasoned Iron Butt achievers, “carb’d up” and attempted to catch up on sleep over the past few days. I also had a cool bag in my top box holding small water bottles and snack bars containing peanuts. As far as I was concerned I had done my preparations, dotted the “I’s” and crossed the “T’s”.

I met one of the organisers, Mark, and completed the paperwork required confirming which route I had chosen and my plans for pre and post ride. Mark also explained that due to probable road closures overnight the first checkpoint venue would be changing from Birch services to Hartshead services. I then grabbed a coffee and caught up with some friends who were helping by marshalling the event.

At 4pm I set off from Squires to Pollington where one of my best friends had offered me a bed for the night to save me camping or staying in a B&B. Evening meal of pizza (more carbs) was gratefully demolished and it was bed by 10pm. 2 hrs later I finally drifted off only to be woken by my alarm what seemed seconds later at 3:45 am. Quick coffee and in daylight we tried quietly to get my bike out of the garage and onto the road without waking the rest of the street up. My idea of being one of the first had been copied by others and when I reached Squires at 4:20am I reckon I was about number 30 in the line-up. The weather was dry and the temperature 11 degrees. Much preferred riding conditions to the previous weekend’s heat-wave. Receipt log and odometer readings documented by the marshals, a few hugs and good lucks from other riders and pillions that I knew and we were off. I actually rode through the gate at 5:02am.

In all my excitement I blithely followed the 3 bikes in front of me before realising that they were going on the anticlockwise route, opposite to the route I was supposed to be doing. A quick ‘all the way round the roundabout’ and I was back on course heading for the first checkpoint.

As I reached Hartshead services I was relieved to see the checkpoint well signposted and a marshal directing us. Following the necessary odometer reading and signature and another good luck hug I was off again.

Excitement had now abated and I concentrated on the task in hand. I had planned my first fuel stop at Birch and as they had reopened the M62 I made my way there.

My coordination was a bit awry and I overfilled my tank which caused the lady attendant to be very concerned and warn me that my bike was leaking fluid and there was a puddle underneath it. I apologised and reassured her that it was my fault and I would take more care.

Off again heading towards the M61 then the M6. Passing the signpost for Preston I gave a virtual wave to my Son who is currently based at Weeton Barracks nearby.

The weather had become a bit cooler and there was a small shower of that fine rain that gets you wet but not drenched. I was glad of the wiper blade on my thumb built into my glove.

I pulled into Burton in-Kendall services as by now I was in need of a warming coffee. Chatting with others on the ride and a decaf’ cappuccino and snack bar later and I felt better.

Back on the road and I reached Gretna where I pulled in for more fuel and by now the sun was out.

Following the M74 I headed for Glasgow.

Well, all I can say is that, yet again, despite my Garmin on my handlebars and Google maps in my ear the route over the Erskin Bridge has eluded me for the second time. Realising I was heading in the wrong direction I chose the Garmin to follow as the lag from Google maps was abysmal. Garmin was indicating a triangular route back to where I needed to be. Glaring at the screen and matching it to the road ahead I stopped at a junction and suddenly realised no give way paint on the road! Looking around I noticed a small island between me and the car in the correct lane stopped at traffic lights. Looking ahead I saw oncoming traffic that thankfully peeled to their left, where I was heading, and just the driver of a transit van giving the universal hand sign to say “what on earth are you doing there” to which I gave the universal hand sign of palms upwards for sorry I haven’t a clue!

Lights changed and I quickly placed myself in the correct lane and berated myself for getting it so wrong. As I safely reached the A82 heading for Loch Lomond I gave myself a stern talking too that I must take more care.

Riding alongside Loch Lomond was one of the highlights of this trip. The weather was dry and sunny though the temperature was only 13 degrees but in reality ideal riding conditions. I noted at least three signs advising car drivers to let motorcycles pass safely and to their credit they all did. I was joined by another rider as we ‘negotiated’ the cars and I made room for him to pull in before setting off again. It was pleasant being with another rider who understood good riding etiquette. Eventually I lost him as I made good progress past a couple of coaches and a caravan.

Heading up to the next checkpoint at Fort William and reaching Glencoe there was a dramatic change in the weather. It became very wet and more disturbingly extremely windy with some heart stopping gusts. Fatigue was setting in so I settled into the traffic behind a car for a while to rest.

Heading into Fort William I tagged behind another group of bikers going the way my sat nav was taking me only to realise as I passed the checkpoint that they were not “one of us”!

A well placed roundabout enabled me to get back to the checkpoint for fuel for the bike and “fuel” for me. I also remembered to log my fuel receipt and odometer reading. Following a chat with the same riders I had met at a previous stop I was off again. Ben Nevis wore a cloud hat and the wind had returned with gusto.

Following the A82 up to Inverness and then joining the A9 heading to Wick the weather dried out but the gusts of wind were a constant demoralising battle.

Reaching Wick, the next checkpoint, there was a little feeling of elation at having reached over half way, dampened by the barren surroundings of a Tesco petrol station in the middle of nowhere. Bike and myself refuelled and the obligatory receipt and odometer reading logged and I didn’t stay any longer than needed.

Returning back down the A9 towards Inverness and again being constantly buffeted in the opposite direction by the wind now was doing nothing for my moral at this point. Again I tried to give myself a pep talk about how nice and flowing the road was, how dry and sunny the weather was, and just to follow the bends, scream!! Another gust nearly leaving me high and dry on the grass verge with a very large drop next to it. I was mentally exhausted.

I survived and in total contrast the rest of the A9 down towards Perth appeared very long and tedious. I was pleased I had cruise control on my bike as there are continuous average speed cameras on that stretch. But it didn’t help that I had not refuelled or planned a fuel stop as I mistakenly assumed there would be services on that part of the A9. As I relaxed and looked around at the scenery I realised I was the only vehicle on the road and nothing had passed opposite me for a while. I was also watching my fuel gauge and it did not correspond with the sat nav mileage to Perth.

I made the decision to go off the route and headed for a village called Dunkeld only to be met by a closed petrol station being refurbished. A man walking his dog came to my aid by explaining that if I re-joined the A9 there was a BP garage just 6 miles down the road! I have never been so glad to see a BP/M&S fuel station and after making sure the petrol tank was at full I tucked into the best tasting sandwich of all time. I also drank about half a small bottle of Lucozade as the recent events had left me feeling worn out.

As I continued towards the next checkpoint in Dreghorn, Edinburgh, with yet another, by now obligatory sat nav detour, as I miss heard the instructions and went the wrong way North on the M9 not South. So a ten mile round trip to back where I started and I reached the checkpoint and met up with other familiar faces. The, by now, second nature documentation of fuel and mileage and then a warming proper cappuccino later I decided it was time to layer up with a the heated jacket that our experienced chairman had kindly lent me. I didn’t actually plug it in as just the extra layer was sufficient at that time and very welcome. There is a lot to be said for prior knowledge!

Leaving Edinburgh knowing I only had one more checkpoint at Berwick and “fuelled” with a proper caffeinated coffee I could feel the sense of excitement return.

Joining the A1 I knew I was on the home straight and couldn’t get lost. Suddenly a transit van a bit ahead of me braked and put on its hazard warning lights then turned them off and carried on. Bewildered I had automatically slowed, suddenly something caught the corner of my vision and looking down there was a deer veering away from me towards the central reservation. I’m not sure who was more shocked it or me as I remembered a conversation with John, our Chairman, the previous bike night regarding deer appearing at dusk and dawn.

By now the light was starting to fade and as a contact lens wearer I was aware as I scanned either side of the empty road for any other wildlife that I was starting to struggle. Berwick checkpoint was reached within the hour and once fuelled up and documentation completed I replaced the lenses with my glasses. Great! I can now see where I am going but can’t read the sat nav screen very well.

What concerned me even more was that signs were displaying that the A1 was closed between junctions 45 to 44. Was that where I needed to be?

Google maps in my ear soon informed me that I was going on an enforced detour that succeeded in disorientating this already directionally challenged rider even more. I eventually recognised a road sign for South Milford and even though my sat nav told me to turn right I turned left and took the longer but familiar route back into Squires arriving at 02:14am.

I was so pleased that one of my friends with a van had gone out of his way to be there for me and he loaded my bike into his van and took me home but not before all the final checks were completed and I received my certificate to say I had completed the RBLR1000 and was now a member of the Iron Butt Association having ridden 1041.5 miles in 21 hours and 12 minutes.

Will I do it again next year? Armed with this years’ experience I may well do.

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