A puzzle wrapped up in an Enigma


Back after a year’s break and a short delay…at 2pm, the words being declared by the person in charge weren’t “Gentlemen, start your engines” but “You may kiss the bride.” Yes, in one pannier Ruby had notes for the National Rally, satnav instructions and waterproofs, and in the other floaty pink dress, diamante sandals and make-up so that I could look suitably glamorous for the surprise wedding of one of my finest friends. (But not as glamorous as the bride, obviously, as that would be bad form.) Quick change in the ladies and off down the road…and round in a big circle. Haven’t quite cracked this sat-nav lark yet!

I need to read the manual, as at the moment the zumo has a fondness for motorways which I don’t share (particularly less than a week after paying 300 quid to replace tyres worn squarer than David Coulthard’s jaw by the 6 points), and insists on using road names rather than numbers. I’m familiar with the A1 also being known as The Great North Road, but I’d prefer to be told “left on the A507” than “left on Station Road.” So I’m hoping there’s a setting that can change these. Worse than annoying, the maps are out of date – while updates are available on the Garmin website, I have to pay 59.99 plus VAT for the privilege, which seems a little outrageous!

[UPDATE, 7 July: I called Garmin customer support this morning and an update disc is in the post. Apparently the online system was confused about when the zumo was first used – it was the display unit and had been switched on to show customers what they were getting. So it’s a big thumbs up from me πŸ™‚ ]

I’m going to have to upgrade my own rally participation from “finisher” to something a bit more challenging…compared to the RBR, driving 30 miles along main roads from one dayglo-signed checkpoint to the next is losing its lustre a little. But I’m reluctant to ride solo through the night, I think it would be a lot more fun in a team. (Subtle plea for volunteers… πŸ˜‰

Normally I start in Stevenage at BikeStop. But thanks to the wedding, I started in Wokingham where Ruby attracted some approval – “you’re set up for some serious motorcycling.” (I think it’s the mules). Hopes for coffee to go with my wedding cake at Waddesdon were dashed by the cafe being shut. Bikestop were well-stocked with freebies, Sawston staffed by the never-knowingly-underpunned Trevor Magner; Bury St Edmunds actually in Thetford (no, not a satnav error…just some creative geography from the organisers) while Wisbech Motorcycle Club turned Ely control into a party (and got my nomination for best control.)

On Sunday morning the rain finally found me again on the run into the Final Control at Bletchley Park and didn’t give up for the rest of the day. Station X’s reputation for mysteries seems to have survived into the 21st century – I heard at least three cries of “buggrit where are my keys?” from the bike park – surely a puzzle that a crack team of codebreakers would solve in a flash (answer: wherever you put them down last).

Bletchley Park seemed really pleased to have the rally and invited survivors to take one of the tours of the site. I went on the 11am tour and, while slightly disturbed to find that the ZX Spectrum of happy memory …

>Thorin sits down and starts to sing about gold
>KILL THORIN
>LOOK
>You can see a dead dwarf

… is now a museum exhibit, am pleased to take up the challenge of our guide: “Bletchely Park was one of the best-kept secrets of the war. Please help us make it one of Britain’s best-known secrets.” If you like machines that go ping, computer tape, model boats and tales of derring-do and intrigue, you’ll love it. And the breakfasts aren’t bad either.

(Photo shows a despatch bike in the Bletchely Park museum: despite all the signals wizardry, sometimes two wheels and a trusted pair of hands remained the best way to get a message safely to its destination)

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