It’s Friday evening, about half past 8, in the main hall at the Overland Winter Warmer. Austin Vince has already gone full maths teacher on the two chaps talking at the back of his presentation on trail riding in the Pyrenees. AdventureDog, BikerIan and I are somewhere in the middle of a row towards the front. Austin is explaining how several classes of schoolboys had enormous fun laying out his first Pyrenees road books in the disguise of an IT lesson.
Sotto-voce grumbling starts from the seat next to me. AdventureDog has decided he is bored and is making this known with a low frequency protest
I fear this will not go down well. We have been given dispensation to be in the hall for the presentations provided there are no objections. A hairy dog building up to singing his bacon-charming song is not going to go down well with Mr Vince and our weekend might be over before it has properly started.
I shush him. I jiggle him a bit. Heads start to turn, wondering if this is some strange new biker tourettes. The groans pick up in volume.
In a few minutes there will be an intermission, Austin says, before launching into a new round of outrageous stories.
I curse, quietly. (unlike the dog.) I should have brought treats. I should have brought a sausage. Anything to keep him quiet. People are starting to laugh and at any minute I expect an expertly-aimed piece of chalk to be launched in our direction, for I went to school in that brief window when smacking was banned but throwing things wasn’t.
We’re saved by the lights and the intermission. Austin pretends not to notice a three-legged dog sat on a chair watching intently and we slope off for stew. AdventureDog sits under the table and polishes off spare stew and bread.
I’ve been on the fringes of Overland since Paddy and Nich set it up – I’ve even had a couple of stories in the early editions, and I wear my Overland t-shirt with pride, though only in bed these days as it’s rather on the large side. But I have never been able to go to the Overland Event in the summer because it’s a no-dog venue. So I was super-excited to learn that Chipping Warden was happy not only for dogs to attend but to come into the hall for the sessions, for a small tent in February is no place to park an arthritic hound, even one with a toasty fleece. I am working on a U-boat captain style roll-neck for him but fixing the spokes stopped play with the knitting needles.
By Thursday night I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Was it really such a big deal to be going camping? Yes, it was February so likely to be a bit chilly but did that really justify stomach-churning levels of anticipation?
And then I twigged. Although I camped last year in the Jawa of unhappy memory, that was with non-biking friends. And I went in the Lomax to a biker rally, and got stick for it.
This was going to be my first motorcycle rally on a motorcycle since the Wingman had arrived from Portugal in 2013. Damn right I was excited.
And it was brilliant. From riding down (carefully, in case the wobbly wheel gave up or the newly tightened spokes poked a hole in the inner rube) in the glorious spring sunshine, to arriving to cheery waves from the guys sitting outside the pub with a pint waiting for registration to open, right through to waking up on Sunday morning to find that the tent was frozen solid, it was fantastic from start to finish.
I wasn’t the only solo female rider – two tents along was Emma from the West Country who was rightly feted for making the trip having only passed her test a few days previously, on a very beautiful red Triumph scrambler. But the Wingman was the only sidecar dogge present. He enjoyed having his photo taken by Sam Manicom and being fussed by Birgit, and he made lots of new friends.
Standout moments for me? Steph Jeavons’ presentation on Saturday night, which covered the distinctly non-macho perils of the she-wee, what to do when the border guards hit on you, and how to cope when “you’re not ready for visitors.” Emma and I and the other women in the room were in tears and many of the chaps were just a bit puzzled. Jocke Selin casually demonstrating how to pick up a GS and shake the water out of the exhaust. Finally meeting @biker_ian in real life, catching up with Robin T, and getting to hang out a little bit with Sam and Birgit. And the bass player in Friday night’s band, who simply could not have been more rock and roll if he tried.
Fantastic weekend. Would recommend. 15/10.