The Arbroath RNLI crew are a more literal bunch. They manned the winches, lowered the radio masts, and pushed the RNLB Inchape down the slipway and out into the sunshine to make a better backdrop to the 7th of the 15 photos the RBR Lifeboats Ride were taking on our tour of the UK’s RNLI stations.
Like bikers, lifeboatmen are fulled by tea and chocolate biscuits, to the extend that each lifeboat has a tea urn and mugs safely bungeed in a corner. As groups we both assume a level of personal risk that many adults would find unacceptable. But when the wind’s approaching gale force and the rain is coming in horizontally, I try and find a hotel. I don’t put my helmet on, buckle myself into a rubber dinghy and let my friends launch me into the sea.
Boffin is still with us because in 1980 a lifeboat crew did exactly that and hauled him out of the Solent after a sailing competition went badly wrong. When, having knocked off the 6 points and the 4 corners, the RBR Touring Section needed a new set of points to visit for this year’s ride, he suggested visiting one of each type of lifeboat in service around the coast of the UK. For some reason everyone I explained this to thought we were visiting lighthouses. Not a bad idea in itself, but I think a lot more ferry rides would have been needed. Also I am getting on and my heart might not have coped with all those steps. I missed the ride last year because I had to go and lobby the Transport Minister about the new test (ooh, can you hear that name drop 😉 so this year I signed up early and planned my route, as usual, at the very last minute.
With the invaluable assistance of Highwayhound, who helped by biting through the broadband cable and stepping on my keyboard at crucial moments, I left on Thursday morning with GPS references for all the RBR landmarks safely in the Garmin. The rather more effective assistance of Graham meant that I also had the locations of the campsites and the RNLI stations. What I hadn’t managed to do was to cross-reference the GPS co-ordinates with an actual map. Of which more later.
Having become old and soft I didn’t fancy a 9-hour cannonball run straight down to Cornwall. I also wanted to be able to spend a decent amount of time at the landmark which can only be referred to as LM17. So day 1 wasn’t really part of the trip, as it took me from the Flatlands to Weymouth. In 2008 when I did the 6 points I was disguised as the Midnight Mud Wrestler, who lent me his extremely waterproof overjacket & kept me dry through the West Country. This year I was being tempted to do bad things by the Belstaff jacket lent to me by Mel, which has a devil on each shoulder and the angel tied & gagged somewhere out of sight. I was wearing this jacket not my usual Triumph one because it fitted better over the heated vest that Mel also lent. me. Both of these were proving wise precautions in the 28 degree sunshine.
Highwayhound has trained me to get up at 5.15am to let him out in to the garden. So I had Chesil Beach pretty much to myself as I made a pre-breakfast run to LM17. I’d forgotten the joy of riding in the pink morning light with just seagulls and bus drivers for company (unlike yesterday when I stopped in the Silver Ball for breakfast and found I had 15 of the Met and the City of London’s bike police for company…not the moment you want to forget to clip your sat-nav into its holder when attempting a confident law-abiding exit. The sound of bouncing navigational equipment does rather attract the attention of the boys in blue (leather). I can’t tell you about the landmark because of the online non-disclosure rules, but it was a beautiful spot and when I go to my eternal rest you can put me there as well.
Changing out of my new Hein Gericke warm trousers back into my Draggins brought a temporary reduction in thermal overload but the day just got hotter and hotter. I distracted myself by playing RBR tag – if 7 bikes are riding south on the same day to the same campsite, and there are 5 LMs to visit en route, it’s a fair bet that paths will begin to cross. So as a big silver BMW headed up the Somerset back-road that I was heading out of, I decided they must be part of the Touring Company and gave them a big wave. They rolled on, unmoved. Maybe not, I thought. Then they rolled into Teignmouth as I was sweating my way out. I waved again, and Ian and Carol, deciding that I wasn’t an over-enthusiastic German tourist, waved back.
Up on Dartmoor I was finally cooling down until I rounded a bend in prime position to overtake the Dutch tourists in front of me to find a silver GS parked in the road. Odd place to stop, I thought. Also he was looking a bit low….and with a back wheel firmly in the roadside ditch, he wasn’t going anywhere fast. At last, I thought! Highwaylass gets a chance to do good deeds and pay back all those other people who have picked my bike out of the holes, gravel traps, unexpectedly deep gutters and sandy carparks of my life. So I parked, hurried back up the hill and helped Mr IAM Senior Observer heft his fully-panniered and tented GS back onto the tarmac. Twice. While at least 20 cars sailed serenely by. Maybe they thought we were bonding.
Almost a full team were gathered at the Dartmoor LM by the time I’d wandered round and failed to find half of it. “Don’t you read the forum?” shouted Graham. Obviously not….and I’ll just be submitting the picture of Ruby with the LM growing out of her head, not the nice close-up one from the (unsignposted) private land as a result…
We don’t usually ride together on these trips. Group riding’s quite stressful and not a little dangerous. We just criss-cross and bump into each other a lot. I’d stopped for ice-cream, water and a sandwich at a petrol station on the Lizard (which had stopped selling petrol in protest at the rates imposed on it by the council) when Graham and Dooz came sailing by, Graham particularly unmissable in hi-viz and with his radio on. They paused long enough for me to catch up and we did the last few miles into Henry’s Camp Site as a group of three. Which was just the right size at the end of a long hot day. Well – not quite the end. Tent-building, beer, banter and bed. That was the end of the beginning.