TARMAC, TAVERNS, TRAVELODGES AND A POT OF WHELKS – THE GRAND UK TOUR
25 – 30 AUGUST 2016
Organiser - Richard Howard, aka Richard The Trip Advisor Howard
Write up – Laurie Evans
To Summarise – Sun (some), Rain (lots), Tarmac and Roads (great), Alcohol (too much), Food and Restaurants (mixed), Travelodges (ubiquitous), Company (excellent), Score out of a Hundred (100 that’s after considering the wet rides).
The Gang and their bikes – Richard on his Step Ladder Yamaha XJR 1300, Bob Wort on his Yamaha Tracer Pacer, Marc Doughty on his Fire Eating Honda Fire Blade, John and Ann Molyneux on their Thundering Triumph Thunderbird and Rob and I on my Tigerforce Triumph Tiger 800 Xrx. Rob, incidentally, is not a Club member but is a very long and dear friend of mine. He used to ride bikes years ago until he had quite a serious accident. As a result he lost part of his little finger and damaged his foot. He can’t ride now as a result but chooses occasionally to get on the pillion with me which helps me control my throttle hand.
To be successful every trip of this nature must start with a Plan and I know that Richard was putting this together early in the year. As I am now quite familiar with the Yorkshire roads, having ridden them quite a bit in the last 3-4 years, I gave him a couple of suggested routes for that area. The other recommendation I suggested was whilst travelling toward the beautiful area of the Lake District a stop at the Hartside Café on the road from Alston to Penrith is a must to soak in the view west towards the Cumbrian Mountain chain. During the course of our conversation we touched upon the infamous Hardknott Pass in the heart of the Lakes and Richard was keen to include it in his planning with an option for those that didn’t fancy the demands of this Pass to divert via another route.
The day of the Tour arrived and Richard, Bob and Marc rode out to Ide Hill, on the Sussex and Kent border, where they were joined by John and Ann. Whereas Rob and I aimed to set out the following morning, as I now live in Derbyshire, and meet the rest of the gang in Scarborough Tuesday afternoon.
Over a week ago I had ordered two new Michelin Road Pilot 4 Trails tyres for the Tiger which didn’t arrive until that Monday, the day of the trip. I was anxious to get them fitted beforehand as the front was well down and rain was on the cards. Having removed both wheels that day I found I couldn’t get them fitted until Tuesday morning. Panic or what! The Triumph dealership agreed that they would get a mechanic to fit them for me as his first job on the Tuesday morning. At 9.30 I was waiting at the dealership and told that where the tyres had been wrapped in cling film for delivery the sidewalls had been compressed and they were having great difficulty stretching the tyres outwards to get them to seal. Panic over eventually and job done; so off back to my garage to fit the wheels. All that went well and Rob and I set off at around 11.30 that morning. In my haste, however, I failed to put in my disc lock and some other essentials, but fortunately did remember my clean underwear.
Whilst all this drama was going on with wheels and tyres in Derbyshire on the Monday the Sussex group were heading to their first stop in Kings Lynn heading up the A1101 which runs parallel with the River Outwell. The town is on the north coast of Norfolk and on the banks of the Wash, where it is alleged that King John lost the Crown Jewels in 1216. En route to their first destination they did stop for a cuppa at the Snetterton 300 Race Circuit where a bike track day was in full swing. That evening they visited a local pub for food and alcohol and discovered it was just about to permanently close in the next week.
The following day Richard et al set out north on the Tuesday morning heading for a tea stop at Cadwell Park Race Circuit as I had assured him that there would most probably be a bike track day on at the circuit. There was and they were all enthralled by the beauty and complexity of the track and its surroundings with many riders giving it full beans and getting the front wheel airborne over the Mountain section. From there they continued north and rode over the Humber Bridge and onto Scarborough.
Having got the Tiger loaded with panniers and two stressed bodies Rob and I set out heading NE to Scarborough via some very pleasant countryside and villages. There was no sign of the rest of the gang as yet on our arrival at the Travelodge and on checking in we discovered that the Travelodge group had disbanded their twin rooms in favour of double rooms or family rooms with an extra single bed. This was a first for both of us having to share a double bed with another man!!!! Good job I remembered the clean underwear. We checked into our room only to find that it was in a state of refurbishment, with furniture piled up on the bed and no light fittings. Reception was not aware this was going on and put us in another small cupboard; well that’s what it felt like. There was a window of sorts which looked out on a brick wall; that was our view.
Then there were 7! The others arrived and we all managed to park the bikes in a motorcycle parking bay with the other bikes surrounding mine for security.
One of the things I wanted to do whilst in Scarborough was to revisit the Olivers Mount race circuit. A bit of nostalgia you might say as back in the early 70’s I had raced at the Mountside circuit. It is a very narrow anti clockwise road circuit overlooking the Bay with three hairpins. Prior to the trip Richard had mentioned that once we had checked in at the Travelodge we may like to ride up to Whitby for coffee and some food and we could all have a ride around the circuit en route to Whitby. That was the plan. However, the consensus was to abort the bikes in favour of a walk into the town, followed by a few beers and dinner. It was a beautiful evening and the tide was out showing the bay and wide expanse of beach in all its glory. Having taken the funicular railway to the beach level this is where the pot of whelks comes in. I love whelks and there were shell fish stalls in their abundance; so I treated myself to a pot of whelks. Richard on the other hand opted for some simulated prawns which he wasn’t too impressed with. My whelks were just what that doctor ordered. This was followed by a couple of beers in a very seedy pub and then dinner. I can only describe Scarborough as a typical very busy seaside town, heaving with tourists, amusement arcades and a small fishing harbour. A pleasant evening was had by all then it was back to the cupboard and hopefully some sleep if the noise of the seagulls didn’t keep us awake!
Wednesday morning we awoke to a cool breeze with some cloud and it had been raining throughout most of the night and the roads were very wet. Today we set off through the streets of Scarborough heading to Penrith in Cumbria. First stop was in the biker’s haven of Helmsley on the boarder of the North York Moors. The Square in the village has a large bikers parking spot which will cost you £1.60 for an hours parking, which upset some of the gang. It is a renowned spot for bikers due to B1257 which is nicknamed locally as the mini TT. It is a very fast, windey and undulating road that meanders for about 20 miles up through the moors to Stokesley.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this ride with stunning views across the Moors heading then across country to Barnard Castle where we parked up in the busy market area for lunch. Following lunch we set out on the B6277 to Alston, another thrill a minute bikers road to the top at 727 metres. I have ridden this road now 3 times, once with Jean who was on her Fazer. From Alston we turned SW onto the A686 climbing steeply to the famous Hartside Café. The views looking over towards the Cumbrian Mountain Lakes and the Isle of Man are incredible. It’s just a pity it wasn’t at its best as there was some mist and murk in the distance.
Following afternoon teas we dropped down the steep winding road, a run of about 6 miles towards Penrith. It was so good that Richard and Bob did a U turn at the bottom and rode on back up to do it all again.
The Travelodge here was on the outskirts of Penrith but a much more spacious room and pleasanter outlook. We decided to arrange a taxi into town and have a drink or two and an Italian meal which we all enjoyed very much, along with several bottles of very strong Sicilian beer. The taxi was already arranged for the return journey and we were all glad to get back for a good night’s sleep.
The forecast for the following day was not good and there was a lot of discussion as to whether we should attempt the Hardknott Pass or not. We planned to ride through the Lakes and onto Kirby Lonsdale, another bikers village, and then onto the Travelodge in Halifax. As it wasn’t raining at this point we decided to get an early start and head for Ambleside and have breakfast there and take a rain check, literally. En route to Ambleside we stopped at a roadside signpost showing a right turn off called The Struggle. We could see this tiny road disappearing into the distance winding over hills and valleys with what looked like grass up the middle. It reminded me of the scene of the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz. Richard and Bob decided to take this route whereas the rest of the group decided we would meet them up in Ambleside. Fortunately we caught up with them in the town and we all circled around until we found a free bike parking spot. Whilst having breakfast the rain started which continued, in some instances quite heavily, throughout the day. Richard and Bob decided they would go via the Hardknott Pass and peeled off whilst the rest of us headed onto Kirkby Lonsdale and meet the other two there. The rain continued heavily throughout the ride and by the time we got to the Village we were wet, wet, wet. There was a market on that day and a village plaque showed that a market was held there every Thursday since 1227. Richard and Bob finally arrived and exchanged their experiences of riding the Hardknott Pass. Had I not been two up and laden with panniers I would have joined them. However, I am glad I didn’t chance it given their account of the ride. Whilst in Kirkby Lonsdale Richard removed his boots and drained them of water, it was that wet! Being so very wet we just wanted to head onto to the next destination and get into some dry clothes so we departed the village in some cases individually.
After doing our best to arrange the wet clothing for optimum drying arrangements in the room we all met up at a local pub for a heavy session of drinks and food. The pub had a pool table where most of us took the opportunity to show off our skills and were challenged by some of the locals at the table but I believe we did ourselves proud. The alcohol kept flowing that evening. Thursday nights at the pub also happened to be Karaoke night and three of the locals took to the mic and rotating it amongst themselves. One of the locals was good whereas the other two would have received XXX on Britain’s Got Talent. I am pleased to say there were no volunteers from our side even though some of us were slurring our words; I believe that was to do with the dampness soaking through us and nothing to do with the alcohol levels consumed.
We woke up on the Friday morning to more rain which put a “dampener” on things. Whilst we all set our room heater temperature to maximum the previous evening in an attempt to dry off our gear it was still sodden from the Thursday ride. Hey ho, us bikers are tough cookies and we didn’t hear one complaint from any lips.
The ride today was going to take south through Halifax, Huddersfield on to the Derbyshire Peaks; Richard’s place of birth and my new dwelling place.
On our ride through Halifax, Marc who was the back marker got caught at some lights. The rest of the group had nowhere to stop and when we eventually found somewhere we saw Marc in our mirrors take a wrong turn. He was the only bike without a sat nav too. Richard quickly took chase and found him.
Once out of the major towns we took to a very pretty country road heading toward Glossop and came across a pub advertising All Day Breakfasts. Well it had to be done. The menu advertised all sorts of brekkie options including Bacon, Sausage and Egg Teacakes. You can imagine what was going through our minds, but they turned out to be very large soft rolls filled with maxed out cholesterol products, so much so that I thought I’m not going to be able to finish this Michelin Man Bap; but I did.
Onward south through Glossop and down through the Snake Pass and into the High Peaks. We headed up and over one of the county’s highest Peaks, Mam Tour and onto Whaley Bridge for the run down to Buxton, Richards home town. From there Rob and I parted from the group as they headed onto their final stopover in Stratford upon Avon.
Richard has since informed me that as it was a long day and they were all quite tired so they walked into Stratford and found a good pub with great food which filled their empty stomachs.
Come Saturday morning and as they had a 140 mile ride they decided to take a direct route and get home for a long earned rest.
Bob’s bike trip showed they had covered 969.9 miles over the 5 days, whereas mine showed 481 miles over 3 days and exactly 14 hours in the saddle.
On behalf of the entire group I would like to say a very big thank you to Richard for organising and leading a great UK tour and look forward to hearing what he has got in store for next year? Thanks Richard you’re a star.