Tag Archives: rbr

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind…

L1060144crop This is what the end of the RBR 2014 looks like.  Strictly speaking there are 9 days left in which to bag landmarks, but I am happy with my 215 points this year. Special Circumstances apply, and it seems to have been a low-scoring year all round. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you need to rebuild half of your engine before you can move forward.

It looks like a fairy ring but it’s the footprint of a medium-to-large tipi. Conkers being less wild than Low Wray, Shakey and I enjoyed a bedside lamp and a halogen heater. Because I am a bit slow of thinking at the moment, I hadn’t realised that a halogen heater doubles as a lighthouse. Still, it made the Klondike look very pretty – like a pointy Chinese Lantern, but not on fire. It would have been cool to have a mobile of bikers and three-legged dogs chasing landmarks to shadow-dance on the walls.

To the right is the windbreak for our Saturday afternoon Adjudication Barbecue. Those whom Graham decides to have photographed the wrong landmark can console themselves with a Frickadillo or a bratwurst. And a beer. Normally Dave and MommyBear come and do the actual cooking.  This year it was my responsibility and my skills fell sadly short. Thank god for caravans with ovens!








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Give it up for Lent!

I have, of late, lost all my mirth. So I am going to go on a quest for it this Lent. Lent starts tomorrow with pancakes, which are undoubtedly a Good Thing, and ends at Easter with the Annual Rally Start Event, which is also a good thing, though where it will be remains a mystery at present, and participating will require me to buy at least two new batteries.

In between there are 40 days, in which it is traditional to give things up. The Pope has already shown the way by giving up being Pope, which seems to be taking things a little far.

I think I have already given enough things up. I am going to try taking things up instead. I would like to do things that make me happy, but apart from eating pancakes and riding motorcycles I am not sure what those things might be any more.

So I am going to devote Lent to trying things to see if I enjoy them. There are constraints on this quest. Things can’t be expensive, illegal or life-threatening. But I think that still leaves scope.

If you’d like to nominate something for me to try, you would be very welcome.


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Lifeboats Ride 2010 – the prologue

“Hang on a minute, the lads’ll push the boat out* for you.”

* “Push the Boat Out”: To spend generously. To spend more than one is normally accustomed to doing, often to mark a special occasion.

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.


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Ruby sings the blues

“It’s 2000 miles to Beaumaris, we got half a tank of gas, 3 fully packed panniers, it’s dawn, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Yes – it’s LifeBoats Ride -1. We start tomorrow night at the Lizard but despite what you might conclude from my entry in Britt Butt Lite last year, I still don’t like to ride more than about 300 miles in a day (yet) so I’m starting off today, stopping tonight after visiting a totally unique graveyard in Dorset (Sorry to be cryptic, I’m still not entirely abreast of the new rules on blogging about the LMs!) and making the second half of the run down through Cornwall tomorrow.

Last time I did this with the RBR we were visiting the Cardinal Compass Points of the UK – also known as the 6 points (You can read my blogs about it here, here, and..oops, there is no Part 3). This year we’re visitng one of every kind of lifeboat station to raise awareness of and funds for the RNLI. Some of the guys have taken sponsorship forms out and about, personally I feel a fraud asking people to give me money for me to do an activity which is about as optional as breathing, so I’ll make my own donation when we get back. If you do feel moved to support what, despite its life-saving role, is a wholly voluntary service please visit our team JustGiving page.

Why lifeboats? Boffin has been a big supporter since he was a young man, when the RNLI intervened to ensure he would be able to become an older man. I imagine
being plucked from a buoy in the middle of the Bristol Channel would inspire lifelong loyalty. I’m more in the deeply grateful category and thought that I was unique in being rescued by the Coastguard while on the bike, but it turns out that Mel was once rescued by the RNLI after knocking himself out duelling for second place in a beach race.

I wrote once before that sailing and riding had many similarities. We pit our talents and our training against a challenge which if handled poorly could kill us. And we thank the deity or ruling principles of our choice through fiscal donation that there are volunteers out there ready to help without judgement if things go wrong.

PS – forgot to explain the blues reference! Camping kit has been expanded by the world’s smallest amp, for Steve Lockwood has an amp for all occasions. As we progress up the coast Ruby and I will be pausing to serenade the seagulls now and again in order to keep my hand in.

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Caught out at sunset

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First step towards world domination

Graham has banned me from writing anything new until I finish the story of the 6 points. Fortunately I am not that easily defeated 🙂

Read about the RBR Hayfield Camping extravaganza…over here, on the Daily Telegraph!

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6 points part II

Click here to read Part 1

Once we had cleared up the linguistic confusion and established that I wanted a rubber stamp not a postage stamp, Killiecrankie obliged with a very fine example of the genre and I continued north. There is a lot of north, and, rather like Cornwall, it stretches rather further than you might be led to believe by a London-centric media. There is still a little snow on the mountains, and helpful signs on the A9 encourage courteous driving and overtaking. A friend asserts that courteous driving is more manifest in the north due to the incipient violence in the Scottish psyche making road rage too risky, but I disagree.

After the debacle of the Hunter Stone, I have decided to be strict with myself about detours. I could have headed east for an attempt on the Well of Lecht, which looked straightforward (don’t they all!) but would have added maybe 2 hours to the journey, and by this point I’m starting to feel the combined impact of sustained high-mileage days and less-than-totally restful nights. Not helped by the stentorian tones of the Twins who like to start their day at 7.00am (they are on a mission to bag all the Scottish landmarks while up here) and see no reason to whisper while striking camp. So I joined the queue for a photo of Glenbogle Town Hall and headed for the campsite.

I live in London. People assume that this means I am used to things on a large, imposing and possibly even grand scale. But this doesn’t mean I don’t find the 24-hour Tesco at Dingwall anything less than terrifying. All I want is a citronella candle, some chocolate, and maybe some Primula and Cheddars for a retro tea. I really don’t want a plasma TV, a 3-litre jerrycan of citronella oil, a DVD player or a flymo. After several hours I am still roaming the aisles hopefully looking for a citronella tea light. The checkout staff take pity on me and show me to the candle aisle and I leave with something which promises to smell of the ocean. Whether this deters midgies or not remains unproven.

According to the Camping and Caravan Club website, Dingwall is Viking for Meeting Place. Presumably the Vikings brought their own barbeque supplies with them, for Dingwall is not over-provided with eateries. It is well-supplied with honesty, however – “where’s the best place to eat?” we asked the local citizen industriously weeding the planters at one end of the High Street.

“At home.”

Day 5 – Still plenty of North to go

The paucity of roads in the Highlands makes navigation straightforward – up the A9 until you run out of road. Stop. You have arrived in John O’Groats. On the way we pass the Ord of Caithness, which sounds like a Dr Who monster. After the stop at Clynelish for a LM photo and a tour, I’m riding with Graham, Graham’s granddaughter and Graham’s friend from Brora who looks a dead ringer for Bill Bryson. All three of them are on the Wing, which causes a small stir when we pull up for a coffee at the Laidhay Croft Museum. Within 5 minutes we’re joined by a bunch of Harley boys who are doing the end-to-end on hardtails and chops – I wouldn’t like to be their kidneys! – and I wonder just how much money bikers bring to the tourist economy in remote spots like this.

The lady at the Last House in Scotland seems resolutely unimpressed by this End-to-End nonsense and stamps my form with as little small talk as possible. I buy several postcards in a bid to cheer her up, and then discover that the most northerly branch of Costa Coffee on the mainland is running at a slower pace than is normal for take-away coffee shops – thankfully I’m getting an espresso, not a filter coffee as the filter coffee’s only just gone on and will be about 15 minutes…which would have made me even more last than usual at the next meeting spot, Dunnett Head.

I’m still awestruck by the landscapes in the very far north. But the wild and windswept beauty can’t be admired without acknowledging that emptiness wasn’t its original state and was created at the cost of a great deal of human misery. And then taken advantage of by the person who decided that the north coast was a great place to build a nuclear power station…

Day 6 – the 6th point

We begin the day with another demonstration of maintenance muppetry. The bike hasn’t been cornering too well (hmm..workman…tools?), so I thought I’d best check the tyre pressures. Being Bavarian, the pressures are in Bar rather than psi, but the 24-Hour Tesco is not fazed and lets you set the air machine to either. Preoccupied with the kryptonfactoresque puzzle of trying to get the air hose onto motorcycle tyres when little things like the brake calipers, the spokes and the axle keep getting in the way, I set the machine to Bar and set about my topping-up mission. Strangely it seemed to want to let air out of the front tyre instead of put any in, but the ways of technology are strange so I thought little of it. Squirrelling down the roads, I cursed the inaccuracy of free air machines and thought I should find room in a pannier for my own gauge. Then I thought, maybe you need to set it to Bar for each tyre, and not just assume that setting it for the back tyre means it knows you want Bar for the front tyre too.


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The club for me…

Preparing for the 6 points, I’ve taken the slightly terrifying step of joining the Campaing and Caravanning Club. They wrote today to tell me about their special interest groups – and there’s one with my name on it: The Association of Lightweight Campers

On further inspection it is sadly not for those people who would like to camp only when the sun is shining and within easy reach of a fine espresso, but only for those who don’t own trailer tents.


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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I have been tetchy all weekend thanks to feeling deprived of my Easter trip to the mountains. So when I woke up this morning to see 2 good omens: blue skies, and the windsock on the balcony opposite not about to tear free from its tether, and only one bad one: big puddle of ice on the roof next door, I decided that it would be Highwaylass 1, Weather 0, and got the thermos out of the cupboard. Of course, by the time I’d made my coffee, the view of the windsock was blocked by the falling snow. But I am practising being of stern stuff so I decided to press on regardless. (Not forgetting a hearty upbringing where the traditional cry on a Bank Holiday was, “Get your jumper, we’re going to the beach.”) So, resolute but not reckless, I prepared by adding an extra layer of clothes. Like a Russian doll or an onion, if you peeled off my top layer you’d have found a slightly smaller version of me underneath (this time in furry aquamarine north face top instead of black fleece) and if you’d peeled off that layer you’d have found another smaller me, this time in superwool thermals. Fortunately I have lost sufficient weight since Christmas that there’s room inside my Belstaffs for the extra insulation! – and just for good measure, 2 pairs of socks. Hands I had to trust to the heated grips.

I’ve never ridden in snow before, the only time I nearly had to was when I had a service and MOT booked for the Triumph, and the flakes started drifting as I crossed the North Circular – but Flitwick let me bottle it on account of being a girl. So it was a new experience, and it started off not too bad – small flakes that are a bit more like hail than snow bounce off better than raindrops and don’t make you wet or cold, and as I headed out of London the clouds split and the sun came out. So determination was rewarded….but it was still pretty chilly and I had forgotten that Ipswich exists in some kind of fold in spacetime meaning it takes three times longer to by-pass than it deserves on account of its size, and by the time you get out, your helmet hurts, you’re hungry and in need of some coffee – shelter, warmth and caffeine all admirably provided by the farmcafe on the A12 and their fantastic woodburning stove.

The sun held out as far as the coast (LM 45) but my luck ran out on heading back inland. Big soggy snowflakes may look pretty but they plaster themselves over your visor like a wet white alien facehugger, and the turny-head slipstream trick doesn’t work, so it’s a one-handed swipe every few seconds, leading to cold wet gloves 😦

Of course, none of this is apparent in my RBR photos, as every landmark bagged today was basking in bright chilly sunshine by the time I got there – so I can’t claim extra points or sympathy for hardship endured! Though I do think that nothing makes you appreciate riding into the golden evening sun so much as the previous 20 minutes riding into a blizzard. There’s a book of cheesy biker wisdom in there somewhere…

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Get your thermals, we’re going to Wales

The weather forecast seems depressingly familiar…

“Outlook for Thursday to Saturday:

Rain and strong winds on Thursday clearing to leave bright, cold and windy days on Friday and Saturday with blustery showers, these becoming increasingly wintry with time, especially over mountains.

Updated: 0906 on Tue 18 Mar 2008″

I’m assuming “wintry” is code for snow.


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