The Quick Quacks in Frome and the E2E
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Grays to Frome
The omens were good. A fair crowd was due to collect at Frome including some new members and a decent number were planning to do the "End to End". The weather reports were promising and apparently my bike was ready to ride having required cosmetic repair and fork work. In this latter part my optimism proved unfounded. Friday 27th April dawned and it was unseasonably warm, my spirits were high. I waited for bro Andy and colleague MtSR. Mike was on form and left it to the last second to arrive and found Andy and I leaving to meet Nigel at the Thurrock Services on the M25. Our little convoy then carried on down to The Woodman (excellent pub, Ide Hill) to wait for John S.
When John arrived (interesting detour - ask John) we set off passing through Lingfield and Lindfield to Haywards Heath and the A272. This is a fine road, much, much more interesting than the M25 and most efficiently brought us to Winchester where we stopped for lunch. Amazingly the sun was still shining, the weather warm and the mood cool. After Winchester, because of a fiddly bit, we let the GPS take the lead. Naturally this meant it bypassed the interesting wiggly bit I had planned. I hate GPS. The A36 took us to Warminster and the A363 to Frome. Diversions in Frome made finding the hotel a fraction more awkward than I expected but after doing a loop to refuel we made it there in reasonably good order. On arrival it was great to see everyone especially Ian U who had taken a bit of a beating recently but was looking very chipper indeed. Naturally we partook of some bevvies before moving in to unpack and prepare for dinner. The band, knowing what is good for them, were rehearsing and sounding sweet. Dinner was pleasant, the company excellent and the aprés food entertainment entertaining.
Saturday and it's not raining! Awesome, we are a week early this year and getting away with it. Bums were on seats in good time. I'm in group one and they're off. I get 50 yards and realise I've left my bag in my room DOH! I turn round, dash back, grab bag and leave with the Touring Group. As it happens this was no bad thing and I had a very gentle relaxed ride. It also gave me the opportunity to try to help Sally with her bend management but unless you're Steve (he of the awesome progress on a HD) Harley's and tight bends don't mix very well. Maybe also this genteel pace saved me from IWOO's fate as I did not find the hydraulic fluid which would have been very upsetting. Rather scarily the route took us past my MIL's house where coincidentally my wife happened to be. We snuck past without being seen.
Coffee and lunch were taken at Sammy Miller's Museum. However, I couldn't enjoy this much as I had noticed that my seat wasn't held on any longer! The thread holding a bolt holding the seat had stripped, if that makes any sense. I dashed into Christchurch and asked a mechanic if he could fix it. "No, but I know a man who can." I was sent a mile down the road to a really nice guy who cut the the old "nut" out of the sub-frame and attached another in less than 5 mins. "How much?" says I. "Buy me a drink" says he. Have two.... what service. Back to Sammy for a quick lunch. I ate some highly calorific cheesecake then dashed round the museum, not doing it justice sadly :(
The run from lunch to tea was fun, but in places very bumpy. It was at tea I noticed my newly rebuilt forks (well the right at least) had sprung a leak. Oil was running down the leg, onto the brakes, leaping the gap to the oil cooler, the clutch cover, my right foot and the right exhaust pipe AAAARGH! The forks were over damped to begin with. Now I had an over damped left fork and an under damped right fork. This makes for interesting handling. Make the best of it boy and get on with it. Knowing your fork leg is leaking messes with your head let me tell you, however I managed to ride vaguely reasonably back to the hotel via some excellent roads, thanks guys.
Frome to Sennan
Saturday evening the band excelled themselves. There were many guitars, and most impressively keyboards and a full drum kit. The sound was excellent and I might even have paid money to listen. Sunday morning we had our usual meeting and rather amazingly seem to have managed to plan as far ahead as September 2008! At the parting of the ways after the meeting a significant proportion of attendees were planning to do the 10th anniversary End to End run. This wonderful concept started almost as a throwaway remark and gradually coalesced into this wonderful event. The format for this run was to be somewhat different to a usual QQ weekend with looser groups finding their way to that day's meeting point(s). For Mike and I this was demonstrated before leaving Frome. I had a trailing wire hanging from a pack so stopped to tuck it away and we never saw the rest of our group again!
We took stock and decided to vaguely head south. We missed the B3092 so ended up swinging east before going down the A350 to the A303. I tried to communicate via hand signals with Mike as to whether he wanted to go down the A30 after the M5 or the A38. This was a distinct failure so I carried on to the A38. I don't think we regretted this turn of events as it is quite an interesting road spoilt only a little by double white lines. After the A38 rather than try to track the others down at their lunch stop we decided to find somewhere on the way down the A30. I was fascinated by the name Indian Queens appearing on signposts so dived into the town and stopped at The Blue Anchor which has an interesting history. We had a pleasant lunch in the sun, a taste of things to come. I had promised to be at The Whitesands Lodge by 4pm so pressed on fairly soon as I thought going might be slow. Actually we made good progress and when we reached the part from Penzance to Sennan we made excellent progress.... What a lovely bit of road. Mike and I arrived well before everybody else so we sauntered off to Sennan Cove and watched surfers and bathers playing in the sea, whilst sipping beer (well I was) on the bar verandah in the sun. We returned by the scenic coastal path to find some more Quacks in residence. The musical interlude was brief as the temperature plummeted as the sun got low. The evening meal was excellent, the staff helpful and the accommodation amusing (Quacks in bunks).
Land's End to Monmouth
Monday morning found us traveling in convoy down to Land's End. It was somewhat grey but not cold or wet and there was a distinct air of excitement. We gathered for official group photos at the Land's End signpost, there were many cheesy grins in evidence. As I was increasingly concerned about my fork leak I was muttering about joining Bonnie in a dash to Bristol to get it fixed. However a few phone calls later made it clear that it would be very expensive to buy the parts before I actually knew what was necessary. By this time only Bonny and I were left, which gave us something of an excuse to play catchup. After a while Bonny pulled over (I know not why) and waved me past. We had caught up with Jane and Keith and then found JB, BB, CtC, GG (anymore?) in a petrol station so I teamed up with them. Naturally we set off before some but managed to end up behind others after a detour.... The run up the A30 and the A39 was pretty good but things got more interesting on Exmoor where we stopped for lunch in the Black Venus Inn. After a fun run across Exmoor we joined the M5 at Taunton and dashed up to Wales, crossing the Severn by the M48. We dived off the A466 onto some great backroads and so entered Monmouth from the Northeast. Scabbers provided sterling service. After meeting up with Sarah and Steve over beer in the car park we had a fine Mexican meal though Ian seemed dubious. It was probably during this meal that some ratbag stole my tax disc by the simple means of snapping off my trick aluminium holder.
Monmouth to Carlisle
It's Tuesday so it's time for some superb Welsh roads. We started with a lovely B road run to Hay before turning north to the A44. I think this bit of road was simply to get us to Huw's favourite road the A483. This is a wonderful serpentine road to Newtown. From here we headed northeast via the A489 and the B4386 to Shrewsbury. The next section was somwhat less exciting. We went round Shrewsbury then up the A49. Lunch was taken at the Fox and Barrel and very pleasant it was too. After the A 49 we did a quick dash onto the M56 then the M6 north to the A590 and the A591 to Windermere. Some have said they found the lakes section frsutrating because of traffic. I have to say I have no memory of any significant hold ups, maybe I was asleep. I did enjoy the Kirkstone Pass but I was brought up on roads like that so maybe that's why. Descending to Ullswater we stopped at Glenridding and enjoyed sunning ourselves by the water and eating ice cream. Eventually this delightful interlude came to an end and we enjoyed the lakeside run to the M6 before heading north. It was on the M6 that WVM pulled out in front of me whilst I was in the right hand lane about to pass him. Rather than brake I simply jinked left, drifted past and pulled back in front of him. He took massive exception to this and started tailing me at a distance of about 1 foot. I just held my ground and was gently overtaking other traffic. When a bit of a gap appeared to my left WVM pulled up along side me then started to pull out into me! I took a swing at his mirror with my armoured glove but he thought better of things and pulled away again. Silly sod. On the way into Carlisle from the north (quicker than going through from the south) I got fed up with the traffic and needed petrol so filtered off into the distance, unfortunately causing great confusion in the process! However, it was a simple matter of filling up for the morning and returning back up the A7 to the hotel. In the evening a short route march took us to an excellent Indian restaurant where we were joined by Colin who was unfortunately still hors de combat. I am uncertain that a Mexican meal folloewd by an Indian meal is terribly wise.
Carlisle to Kinlochleven
I was really quite excited about this next stage, we would be going somewhere I had never been before (The Duke's Pass in the Trossachs) and we would finish in Kinlochleven, a most beautiful part of the country. Things start well though it was, for the first time, rather cold. Welcome to Scotland. A cruise up the A7 to Langholm then Hawick (hoick) brought the gang back up to strength and it was good to see Gary looking quite well. The A7 is always good and I thought the A707 and the A72 were excellent. Unfortunately after Peebles Dave was unlucky to catch the side of White Van Man (who a witness said was cutting the corners). Sadly this didn't do his foot any good and it now contains some metal work. However, I am very impressed by what a VMAX does to a van. Opened like a can of sardines. Tough man on a tough bike.The A721 was still pretty good but from Carluke to Kilsyth the A73 and the B802 were a bit dull. Things quickly improved when we entered the Trossachs via the A81 then the A821 stopping just before Aberfoyle at the Rob Roy for lunch. I think the petrol I bought in Aberfoyle is possibly the most expensive in the world! The Duke's Pass was a blast and a few of us diverted to Loch Katrine (I didn't walk far enough to get a picture that does it justice) , absolutely stunning in the sunshine. Poor old CtC was waiting down at the A84 having gone to Callander for petrol, we did get to him eventually! A quick blast up the A84 brought us to the A85 which goes through Crianlarich, then we took the A82 to Ballachulish. I love this stretch of road. The views are magnificent, it's steeped in history and folklore (Glencoe) and it takes me to the west coast, which has to be good. We stopped for coffee before I went into the village to meet a mate (Chris Ellis) who lives in Ballachulish and is one of the GPs in Kinlochleven. After saying "Hi" I rejoined everyone else at Kinlochleven where we were sorted (bit like in Hogworts) into our cabins. We had a great evening with music, beer and friends in the sun. The food was really surprisingly good.
Kinlochleven to Tongue
The last leg! I had planned to go via Newtonmore to the A9 and then north but I decided to follow along with those going via Fort Augustus and then the B roads on the southeast side of Loch Ness. However, where they turned north to Inverness I took the right fork for Daviot / Craggie before turning up a tiny narrow relatively unknown road from Farr to Garbole. There are some excellent views and secluded beauty spots great for a picnic. I then went into Tomatin where I spent much of my childhood holidays and visited the Findhorn where I used to walk, swim and fish. After Tomatin I thought I ought to get on with it and catch everybody up, assuming they were far ahead by now. I dashed up the A9 and over the Kessock Bridge. The idea was to meet everyone in Helmsdale but as I passed through I couldn't spot any Quacks. Assuming they had already moved on or I had missed them completely I carried on towards Wick. I stopped at Tescos on the north side of Wick for fuel and a sandwich. I met up with Ian here who had seen me ride past. Then, of course, communication technology won out and we discovered that everybody else was still back in Helmsdale! Still a rest would do no harm so we settled down to wait. Once everybody assembled in Wick Robbie led us off to John O'Groats in Quackfile. At JO'G Scabbers took pride of place by the signpost and we gathered round for our second official photo shoot. The day was not yet done, however and we carried on to Tongue to the excellent hotel there. Once again the music was great, the food good and the company fabulous, what a wonderful club!
Tongue to Port Appin
There was some sadness in the morning as not everyone would be continuing to Port Appin. In purely riding terms I think this day was the best of the whole trip. The A838, A894 and the A835 were totally fabulous roads representing about 100 miles of motorcycling magnificence. Such sustained visual beauty, quality roads, good visbility and hardly any straight bits is such a rare combination that I would be prepared to go all that way just to do it again. I was busy doing some videoing and stopped to change films thus getting left behind. I was by now starting to understand the interesting handling of my sick front end. Thus when I set off I decided I might as well ride properly. When I caught the guys up Bonnie took a look at my back tyre, pointed and laughed. It was shredded, hmmmm..... I've not seen anything like it since the last time I did a track day. I think I stretched the chain as well, oops. We had a pleasant stop in Ullapool. Some of us even had a proper "see food" lunch. After Ullapool we turned inland until turning west again on the A832 at Gorstan and then southwest on the A890 at Achnasheen. At some point Bonny waved me past on the assumption that I knew the road. Well I have certainly driven down it before but never ridden it at quack pace so it was an interesting highly technical learning experience for me. On meeting the A 87 we turned towards the Kyle and crossed the bridge.Just before Broadford we turned south on the A851 to Armadale. This road is much improved since the last time I saw it. We caught the ferry to Mallaig then went down the A830 to Loch Eil where we turned south onto the A861 to the Corran ferry. This brings you back to the A82 above Onich. It was a short run from there down the A828 to Port Appin. On arrival I could have sworn I had died and gone to heaven. The hotel was fabulous, the setting unparalled and the company perfect.
Port Appin to Louth
Now we come the breaking of the Fellowship of the Piston Rings. Those of us left at this point broke up into small groups to scatter far and wide across the country. I was with MtSR, Adrian, JB, Huw and GG. We turned south to Connel then east to Crianlarich. We went east and south to get round the Trossachs then past Stirling, Falkirk and Edinburgh to get to the A702. For once the GPS turned up trumnps and took us by an odd little road to the A701 and on to Moffat. The B7076 took us to Ecclefechan (great name) and then some minor roads (another GPS success) got us over to the A7. From Longtown we went through Brampton to Alston and the start of the B6277. For me this was the highlight of the day. This is a wonderful road that takes you in what appears to be a straight line to Middleton in teesdale. the road is, however, anything but straight. There are no nasty surprises but many excellent bends in all three dimensions, and if taken quickly enough four dimensions. We had a very civilised tea/coffee break before breaking into two smaller groups. JB and I now made a bee line for Hull and then Louth. In Louth I waved goodbye to JB and went to see pal Ronnie (he who has entertained quacks before). I was kindly given a bed for the night, but first I had to repair my jacket zip which fell apart when I took the jacket off. Half an hour with glue, pliers and button thread and I had a functioning zip again. See those bits and pieces I carry do come in useful!
Louth to Grays
My last day and I'm all alone /sob. The only intersting bits of this section were the A153 to Sleaford then the A15 to Peterborough. Slightly spoilt by all the warnings of impending doom. Notices like "Bends, to die for?" Well yeah, it's why I'm here you fool. After Peterborough I blasted straight home ignoring those "average speed cameras", nothing came of it.
So there you have it 2,550 miles of quackery. A fitting 10th anniversary event I feel and I hope evrybody enjoyed it as much as I did.
Quick Quacks Pete the Free