Arriving at Loch Rannoch, it starts to rain. It continues for three days and is joined by a wild wind that keeps us awake at night. Not due, in part, to the fact the tent… More
Onward we go, to the sound of applause from the Cock o’ the North.
You wonder why the applause?
The packing takes six hours to organise.
I say packing, but the packing is thwarted by a couple of mishaps. A security cable is stuck in the brake disk of Verd’s bike. The second is a packed pannier bag that refuses to go into the pannier. Our first thought is that we’re going to have to get rid of the axe (we need an axe?) However, the obstacle is a previously unnoticed dent in the pannier caused by the dramatic toppling of The Beast before we even left the house. The Cock o’ the North is not only attached to a micro-brewery, but to an engineering company. Hans comes to the rescue with a car jack and irons out the dent. We also have to adjust the suspension on The Destrier so that she doesn’t become too fond of wheelies all the way to the next stop.
Finally, we’re on the road (hip, hip, hooray!) and The Destrier and its rider are extremely happy. Not quite so heavy, beautifully balanced and in complete control. Verd and The Beast are little wobbly and top heavy, but not so bad that we have to spend another six hours addressing the difficulty.
We have a good and faultless ride. Stop-start traffic in urban areas are challenging, but we remain in control. We enter a dual-carriageway and reach the speed limit with little effort; both bikes pull well. They are built for this kind of journey. The Yorkshire Dales presents very narrow and windy roads – fun – even with a load.
The final challenge is getting into Kettlewell campsite itself, undertaking its rough stoney track and wet grass to the tent pitch. By the time I dismount, I’m feeling very pleased with myself and now more confident about the feasibility of the trip. Verd is happy too, but still feels he has some weight distribution to sort out. I’m sure this is going to be another 6 hours of pain when we we’re packing up again in 5 days time.
The campsite is a field with 5* shower facilities. After 5 nights with only pub toilets and basins for basic sanitation, I wallow in the luxury of a hot shower that’s better than many hotels I’ve been too. It is set in a valley between limestone hills and is beautifully peaceful. Swallows are gliding over the grass catching midgies with incredible aerobatic accuracy.
We soon make friends with Mick, Tim and John, and accompany them on a ride that takes me a little beyond my comfort zone for hills, blind bends, blind humps and general adventure bike-ness. But I’m really happy with how I’m managing the new terrain, although I don’t keep up with the leading bikers, who’ve been riding since they were nippers.
We go to Skipton first for some provisions, then make our way to Ribblehead Viaduct. I’ve only ever seen the viaduct from a train window before and it always looks magnificent, but to see it on a bike ride is just exhilarating. We do a circuit, stopping briefly at a cafe where I break my decaffeination regime – I’m with dedicated tea drinkers and it rubs off.
Back at base I draw a laugh from the newly arrived BMW riders – my hands have cramped and I’m cursing as I try to get the blood circulation functioning normally again.
The next ride takes us up over Nidderdale. Mick promises there’s nothing more to cope with than experienced on the previous day.
This is an outright deception!
Only a couple of miles into the ride and the lead rider has missed a hairpin bend into a very steep hill. The next two riders go for it. I follow. With some help from my guardian warriors, we make it up that hill and I’m whooping to celebrate the success. There isn’t anyone going fast on this road and we manage to stay together. The scenery is magnificent, with 360° views. Not that I can fully enjoy it. My eyes are firmly fixed on the road ahead and I’m learning to look further than I normally would for clues as to what hidden obstacles it presents next.
The road presents a herd of hefty cows. With calves, I’m aware how quickly they could become aggressive. We pull up and wait, but they don’t move. Mike braves the challenge and presses slowly forward. We bunch up into an impenetrable line, hoping that no calf becomes separated from its mother. We are all holding our breaths.
I’m relieved when the herd thins out and we finally cross a cattle grid. I sense the communal exhale of breath as the bikes are revved and those wheels begin to gain distance. It’s not long before we hit another hairpin bend into a steep hill. A car occupies the road leaving little room for manoeuvre. It’s a nervous moment, but we all make it up safely, although I can’t say that it was the most graceful of feats.
We stop at Jervaux Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery, for tea (of course). The monastery is quite close to my heart, it being a sister monastery to one in Ireland, Mellifont, where I was once employed as a tour guide. The cakes look more than tempting, and I opt for a gluten/dairy-free lemon and blue poppy seed variant.
The club member regroup for a meal at a pub in Kettlewell, conversation is good and we’re given good tips for the road, including ditching the 21st century technology! Most are taking off this morning for home, I’m taking a hormonal break from anything adventurous. It’s necessary – or it could be a conversation with an officer of the law: “sorry officer, it’s me hormones.”
Not sure they’d buy it.
Next stop: Alnwick Rugby Club.
It’s in Northumberland, beautiful countryside and a place where we spent one of our first romantic weekends. Looking forward to exploring further.
We sleep on the sofa bed the new tenants have agreed to keep. It’s uncomfortable and the nervous energy is high. Not a great deal of sleep is had and we have to drag ourselves into action in the morning. We’ve got a lot to do.
I’ve moved house before, but there’s always the option of finding a big box and flinging the last of your possessions into it and worrying about it later. It’s a great deal more difficult when you’ve now filled four panniers, a top box, two duffles, tent bag, mattress bag, two pannier toppers, two tank bags and Dennis and you still have to pack what looks like the same bulk and weight again.
Before I go on, allow me to explain Dennis.
Dennis is the Hopper. It is a giant Pelicase that was never intended for a motorcycle, but has groovy features like waterproof-ness, pressuriser and general bomb proof-ness. It’s the home of sensitive equipment that enables us to remain on the grid while off-grid. Think solar and mobile wifi and you get the picture. When full, it’s about 40 kilos and definitely not intended for a motorcycle.
But Verd is a gadget man and there’s no compromise to be had, despite my girlish suggestions of small and light. This box must go on the back of his bike – but how?
Enter the stage: Mark
Mark is an engineer, based in Scunthorpe, with a passion for bikes. He has about nine of them. I’ve seen a couple: an BMW Adventure bike, a BMW cafe racer, a Kawasaki he’s had since he was a nipper and a Triumph ex-army bike. He makes some BMW accessories which he sells well below the usual market price for similar equipment and undertakes custom work. He loves a challenge and when Verd presents a significant feat, to be complete within 4 weeks, Mark sets to work, day and night to get the job done. It’s a masterful piece of engineering and Dennis is now riding pillion on Verd’s bike.
Sometime during the day, we strike a deal with a rally driver who buys the car and promises to take it on a charity rally from Norfolk to Romania. He’s quite the character. We’re based in the car park of a garden centre and other shops, and he manages to make heads turn with his larger than life voice and personality. Lots of us have shadows that follow us, but I think this guy is followed by Fun.
I’ve love the stories that people have told about how they intend to use some of the things they’ve bought from us. One couple bought a cabinet they intended to hang in the van they were doing up. The internal décor of the van wouldn’t have looked out of place in a scene from the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassas.
The bikes are full with all they can carry and we’re still not finished. It’s past the time we said we’d be out of the house, so Verd takes an executive decision. We’re only going a mile, so go to the campsite, I pitch up the tent, and he goes back for the rest.
Despite the obvious flaw in this plan, I set off, and wait for Verd at the gate. The bike feels very heavy, the suspension isn’t adjusted and I’m nervous about handling this long one mile of a journey we have. While talking myself through what I need to do, Verd walks towards me and says he needs my help. I park up the bike, turn the corner and witness a very large bike (The Beast, until otherwise named), with extraordinary luggage, lying flat on the ground.
By the time I’m back on The Destrier, I’m very hot and bothered.
An hour or two later, I’m enjoying a merlot (or two) in the Cock O’ The North tap room, which adjoins the campsite, relating the tale of why we’re two hours late for the drink we were promised. I’ve not eaten, and end up staggering back to the tent to discover The Destrier is now flat on the ground. We’d not had time to add the ‘pebble’, an attachment which gives the side stand a fat foot to stop it sinking into soft ground. We look at the bike and wonder how far into the mud the side stand has sunk. I imagine having to dig her out. In our inebriated state, and a general lack of seeming damage or fume smells, we decide she’s safer where she is until morning.
We start the day refreshed and feel a sense of determination to continue with what we’ve started. The Destrier is a lightweight chore after the ordeal of lifting The Beast. The sun’s shining and during breakfast, we’re accompanied by two magpies. The omens are good.
After a hearty lunch of a chickpea curry with basmati rice and samphire we begin the task of reducing the load to something two bikes can reasonably be expected to carry. This is a messy affair where we create a pile of definitely not keeping, a pile of maybe keep and the definitely got to keep.
Our rescue team turns up to collect two 50 litre boxes, a pannier bag and helmet bag full of the don’t need items. They also feed us a wonderful three course meal. Charlie and Ewan – bet your support team didn’t give that service!
We ask to stay a couple of extra nights at Cock O’ The North to do the things we should have done before we left the house.
“What are those two doing over there?” someone asks of the campsite guardians. “All they seem to do is pack and unpack.”
The campsite guardians are also bikers, they understand.
We’ll be saying goodbye to Cock O’ The North tomorrow morning to join other BMW bikers in Kettlewell, hopefully The Destrier and The Beast will remain on their wheels.
What whirlwind few weeks! Boxes in, boxes out – I’ve never seen so much packing material in my life.
Verd is a certified hoarder.
I know this. It wasn’t this hard when I sold my house.
But we’re going to be on the road tomorrow. In fact, on the same road we now live, as we’re camping one mile from home for the weekend. Big adventure, huh?
Anyways, we’ll put another few miles in before the week’s out to join a camping meeting of other BMW Bikers in the Yorkshire Dales. Promises to be fun, and we should get some good tips from the more seasoned saddled-sore folk.
Then onward to Scotland via Northumbria where we may just treat ourselves to a meal in a treehouse – the coolest restaurant I’ve ever been to.
The camera is now in a pint-sized bag that fits neatly in my tank bag, so I promise lots of pics. Hope you enjoy the trip too!
The countdown’s begun.
No, not to the UK election.
I didn’t manage to escape it, but given Tory floundering, flapping and flitterbugging it’s proving to be most interesting. Ok, flitterbugging isn’t a word, but I feel it should be in the context of state politics when you have a leader who lives in cuckoo land and obviously has Thatcher Complex. Ok, that’s not a syndrome either, but if there was, she needs some treatment.
Something amazing has happened though, opposition to conservative politics that isn’t just another form of conservative politics. Great!
Meanwhile on the world stage, I’m cheered by those who’ve stood up to the Strumpet.
Macron Speech (Uplifting 3 mins – don’t you just want him as your president?)
180 Mayors Adopt Paris Climate Accord (good read)
Countdown to what? You’re asking.
On the first day of this month I announced to the landlord that this envelope I have in my hand is the last rent you’re going to see from us, we’re moving out at the end of the month.
I thought he was going to cry. Honestly. He definitely doesn’t suffer Thatcher Complex. 10 minutes later he came knocking on the door to take a look at the place. He’d not visited for many years. He couldn’t even remember how many bedrooms it had. Long story short, an estate agent was coming to take a look at the place early in the morning. We were 2 hours short of going out to a concert (The Skids) for a bit of nostalgia. Never did we run around the house so fast to make it somewhat respectable for a visitor.
Despite our efforts, even the estate agent had to remark on all the camping gear laid out in a super organised way over the floor of one of the rooms. It inspired lots of questions and I think even the landlord was impressed. Then the agent asked, with a look of – this is obviously an impossible task – what are you going to do with all your stuff? And here we were congratulating ourselves on how empty things look and how much of a dent we’ve made in the lifetime of (Verd’s) stuff.
So now the countdown begins. 27 more days before we’re living out of panniers.
It’s 7 weeks since caffeine withdrawal and I can report I’ve not made myself a single cup of strong, red brew. This is something of a feat, given for the last 7 weeks, Sundays have started with a rise of 4:30 am to get a good spacious spot at the local car boot sale. We’ve now coined the term “boot lag” as the after effects run over to Mondays, especially when you no longer punctuate your day with regular caffeine breaks.
However, the benefits far outweigh the occasional immediate desire to nap. I’d been experiencing some digestive issues, and I don’t think it is coincidence that I can report something resembling normality for over a month now. It could be due to drinking mint tea, to no longer being exposed to soya milk or a combination of both.
Meanwhile, the weekly non-enthusiastic run is now a three-weekly more determined regime. We’re getting our fitness back for the demands of the journey. Determined means sticking to the programme, even if the pace is barely more than walking. Should be doing 5k next weekend.
Now the frenzy of de-ownership activity is beginning to subside, this month will be concentrating more on the bikes and bushcraft. We might have time to learn how to hang a tarp and hammock, and to use our knives without losing a finger. Oh yes, I nearly forgot – how to ride the bikes with weight on the back.
I promised you a snuggle sofa update.
We finally had a decent day to take it out of the bag and trial the ease with which you can inflate these lazy day loungers. Here’s my first attempt:
And after second attempt – a tired Saf gets to rest:
One of my favourite permaculture books, Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemingway, tells a story about three brothers who create a natural edible space. They build a pond and it soon becomes productive with edible cattails. But the wildlife moves in and soon something is eating their beloved cattails. I forget what rodent they identify as the culprit, but they wait and let nature do its work. Soon, the cattails come back again and they have a healthy harvest.
Any ideas why?
The cattail eating rodents make a fine feast for otters, limiting their numbers and hence the rise of the cattails anew. Imagine creating a pond that houses otters. What a dream!
Here’s one of the brothers giving a tour of their project which gives a flavour of the brothers’ philosophy and approach to farming.
And an update on our dream:
We’re discovering first edition books and other eccentric items in the nooks and crannies of the old life to be added to the ever growing eBay list. It’s now a full time job. Less valuable items are creating entertainment and trip funds at car boot sales at the weekend. A tiring business when you’ve decided not to drink caffeine anymore. They require wake up calls of 4-5am.
We like the car boot sales. We attend one in the small town closest to us and there’s a great atmosphere and good sense of community. The diversity of folk who come to visit – there’s many regulars and die-hard early risers seeking the best pics before they’re gone, passers-by, hagglers, price-accepters, treasure hunters, and those looking for something specific they can’t get on the high street. People are friendly and amused by this odd couple selling all their stuff for life on a bike.
We’ve drawn a line at the end of the month for whatever is left will go to charity shops. Being older and wiser, we’ve decided to hold on to the house for an extra month. This month will be FARKLING month. Yup, it’s a thing.
I’ve done a bit of farkling. It involved installing a tank bag, new foot pegs and comfy seat. I’m quite pleased with my efforts with the tank bag. Instructional photos were poor. BMW needs a better photographer. The seat was bought secondhand, and I think the last rider was heavy, or I’m heavier than the last rider, ‘cos when you sit on it, it pulls away from the surface of the bike. I’ll have to farkle it in place. Verd’s more ambitious than me, he’s talking new bike rack and soldering job to fit a Pelican case he wants for the technology.
I’m beginning to worry we’ve run out of space. So hence June farkling and practice runs to make sure we’re really good to go.
Remember the snuggle sofa? We’ve tried it out – more on this in a later post!