The Thunderbird was comparatively easy, I arranged for Boston to stay with our son overnight and Sam my beautiful wife was happy to come along. But we could only make the Saturday. I remember standing in the kitchen and looking at Sam after another downpour and saying well are we going. At this point the sky cleared so we donned our leathers, locked up and headed north, only 213 miles to go and the band started between 8.00-9.00pm. The break in the weather lasted all of 15 minutes, so we pulled into a petrol station, struggled into our waterproofs and continued. North of Bristol the rain stopped and we were able to dry off completely over the next 113 miles. Once in Newport we found the site really easily, pulled up, signed in, and drove across the field to pitch the tent.
We only fell out once, as Sam offered a few suggestions of how to put the tent up properly. My response was not as positive as it may have been, (particularly when you consider that when I was doing my Mountain Leadership Course I used the same Vango Tent, at the top of the Glyders in a force ten, it stayed up, which is more than I can say for some of the tents erected by the instructors). At this point, my wife refused to help any more and headed for the bar. Within 10 minutes the tent was up and I had unpacked. Sam returned and we headed for the bar together. We spotted JC and Ted from our branch in the queue for food, said hello and headed directly for the bar. After a brief discussion with the bar staff on the merits of plastic glasses, I received a superb pint of real ale in a proper glass. Unfortunately, I had to undergo the indignity of having an electronic tag fitted to prevent me from leaving the immediate area with my prized possessions. This wasn’t much of a problem as the first pint lasted less than five minutes and we found a table close to the bar and dance floor. (Having made the point that I absolutely detest plastic glasses, I have to say that the bar staff were really friendly and I wouldn’t have wanted any of the rugby players to cut themselves if I had accidentally broken the glass near the field).
The music, beer and company were all excellent and I really enjoyed dancing the night away with my wife – to some of the old classics. It was also unexpected and pleasing to see Ted.
The next morning we enjoyed a superb breakfast and headed back to Dorset with JC and Ted. We took the scenic route and stopped for a coffee in Cheddar Gorge. The road was wet and gravel had covered most of the surface, so we took it easy! A great weekend was had by all. Thanks as always must go to the B&W Branch for their hard work in making the rally such a great success.
The Legend rally posed more of a problem, as I had promised to remove the fireplace at our son’s house on the Saturday. Removing the fireplace and hearth was easy, but to clear it back to the original stone was a little harder, as I had to knock out and remove 20 sacks of brick, stone and concrete. What a bitch! – I used my trusty 2 lb lump hammer and assortment of chisels and finished the job at 3.30 pm. I was filthy and knackered and went home to shower. Again I was in two minds whether to go or not, but the weather was good, so on went the leathers and I set off on the 169 mile journey. I made good time and by 7.30 pm I had pitched the tent and was heading for a much deserved pint. I sat on the grass, took out my trusty pipe and listened to the music. Dust and soot in the lungs can give you a real thirst, so I headed off back to the bar in search of JC. He was with Patrick from B&W and Eric from Copenhagen. We had a good chat and after a long week away from home, Eric went in search of new batteries for his camera!! The remaining trio headed to the bar to see the band. We ended the night with a swift coffee at the burger van and headed to bed shortly after 2.00 pm. After breakfast we packed and headed for home arriving safely at about 1.00 pm.
Three Rallies were now in the bag and I had qualified for this years challenge, what next? I had spoken to JC on a number of occasions about further events this year and expressed a desire to go to Denmark or Sweden. Hopefully – to go with Sam and possibly picking her up from a nearby airport to prevent problems with her hips. I phoned JC a few weeks ago and asked if he fancied a quiet trip to Sweden. Initially he said no as he intended to go to The Britannia Rally near Viborg in Denmark the following weekend. The allure of double mileage points for the Swedish Rally and prospect of retaining the WATOC championship may have got to JC, as the following night I picked up the phone and heard JC’s distinctive voice, do you still fancy going to Sweden?
Day 1 – I was up at 3.45 am on Wednesday morning; I put my leathers on, said goodbye to Sam and Boston and headed off to Dorchester to meet JC. In the next 7 days we planned to cover 2,400 miles to attend the Rally in Ulrika in the Eastern forest of Sweden.
We had a good days ride and covered approximately 530 miles staying at a Bikers Hotel and Campsite just south of Munster. We arrived and as is customary on these road trips had a glass of beer. We relaxed for a while before building up the energy to put the tent up. We pitched at the side of a lake a very short distance from the outside bar and restaurant area. When the tent was up we strolled back and perused the menu. We had a bit of a result as we noticed they sold cider. We had a couple of drinks and a very pleasant meal, we then took a stroll round the lake before returning for a coffee and much needed sleep.
The Bikers Farm at Bulderner See, Duelman, Germany.
The rising sun on the shore of Bulderner See.
The Bikers Farm entrance/bike park..
The morning Dave & JC set off for Denmark.
- One final view of The Bikers Farm.
Day 2 – The price of camping and breakfast was a reasonable at 13.5 euros and the breakfast was excellent. We set off dry and refreshed heading to a campsite close to Copenhagen. Shortly after we set off it started to rain and the weather deteriorated. The traffic and road works around Bremen and Hamburg really slowed progress and the British Highways Agency would have been proud. After a long days ride we finally arrived at Puttgarden in Northern Germany for our ferry crossing to Rodby in Denmark.
We were on the ferry for about an hour and then headed north in the torrential rain. We pulled up pulled for petrol still in the torrential rain when a couple on a bike pulled up and chatted to JC, they asked where we were staying for the night. He said camping and fortunately they took pity on us!!
Lise and Per were perfect hosts and I thank them for looking after us and inviting us to their home. When we arrived we parked the bikes under cover, unpacked our essentials and headed into a warm dry house. We drank coffee and talked for a while before Lise asked us to come to the table. A superb home made meal was presented and we tucked in heartily. The meal was washed down with Tuborg and followed by more pleasant conversation. I finished the last piece of fresh hot garlic bread before helping to clear the table. Further conversation was aided by a very smooth vodka and couple of tots of old Danish, a local speciality. After a coffee my eyes started to close and it was time to go to sleep in a nice warm bed.
Per & Lise, our hosts from Greve, Denmark.
Day 3 – Next morning we were up early and came downstairs to be greeted by the smell of fresh bread and coffee. More conversation followed over breakfast as JC and I tried to master the cheese grater.
We packed, offered our sincere thanks and travelled the short distance to Copenhagen and the bridge crossing to Malmo in Sweden. We pulled up paid our 160 DEK and headed for Sweden over this amazing bridge. For the first few kilometres in Sweden we experienced a little rain, but by the time we reached our first pit stop the skies were blue and we were looking forward to the last few hundred miles of riding to Ulrika in glorious sunshine. The roads were in good condition and the traffic was light which enabled us to travel at a reasonable speed. We stopped for coffee and fuel and the sun was actually getting hot! We set off towards Jankoping and travelled for what seemed like ages along the side of a beautiful lake. By about 3.00 pm we were approaching our turn off at Mjolby. JC had planned the route meticulously and led without any deviation to the site. Well done JC.
We signed in and as the weather was now very hot headed for the bar to celebrate our safe arrival and completion of the 1,200 mile journey. We entered a dark barn which was our makeshift bar and entertainment hall for the next couple of nights.
We approached the bar and were immediately offered salted cucumber, I quite enjoyed it, however JC thought it may be food of the devil. After a very quick assessment of the situation, I was almost ecstatic at the discovery of a substantial supply of Whitstable Bay Organic beer. We ordered and were almost down our first pint when Eric and a couple of JC’s friends from Holland arrived. We ordered another beer ‘just to be sociable’ of course, chatted for a while then headed down the field to erect the tents. On completion we unpacked and headed up the field to say hello to friends from the UK and to scout the site. After a while we popped back to the bar and collected another fine beer. The next couple of hours were spent taking to friends old and new while listening to one of our hosts yodelling. JC grabbed a bite to eat and we then headed back to the bar to see the band. The group were superb and played a variety of music and I even had to get up on the dance floor on a couple of occasions. I enjoyed catching up with Roy and Dianne Schilling again after almost 30 years and also meeting a great couple from Wimborne who were touring on what looked (from a distance) like a Meriden Bonnie. They live in Dorset and I hope they are able to turn up to the club. We spent the rest of the night talking to really friendly people from Sweden and Denmark and encouraging them to drink Whitstable Bay. The bar started to clear after the band had finished and we were able to continue conversations with our new friends. I had convinced some them that we needed to stay up and watch the sunrise, which I fully intended to do, partly because I remember doing it, when I was single and went to the rallies in the late seventies and early eighties. By 2.30 am the group had dwindled considerably and JC and I were left talking to a young blonde woman from Sweden. I left JC and the blonde for a while and went for a breath of fresh air and to smoke my pipe. At 3.00 am the bar was empty and reluctantly we decided to retire for the night – reminiscing on what had been a very pleasant but tiring day.
Day 4 – We got up late and unsurprisingly had missed breakfast; the weather was good so we decided to go for a short stroll to the
local village where we had spotted a café the day before. The walk was fairly short, certainly when compared to the route march we experienced at the German rally. On arrival at the café/ village store we worked out the system and poured out fresh coffee. After a while we met Eric and two British regulars on the rally scene Phil and Dave. As one of the guys lived in Lincolnshire JC was
keen to discretely learn how many miles he had covered – and his route. We had travelled approximately 1,200 miles by road and were in with a chance of the long distance award. We finished the coffee, bought provisions and headed back. We sat with friends for a while in the glorious sunshine, talked about Triumphs and prepared fresh sandwiches.
We had intentionally avoided the bar all day and even turned down a cool beer from Martin and Mark and from Essex: as we had to set off for the long journey home the following day. In the late afternoon we had a steady walk to the bar where we were greeted with the sad news that the organic ale ‘was off’. They had a reasonable Porter, so that would have to do. We met Hansa from Gothenburg and chatted for a while before heading down to the lake to watch the silly games. The games ended and
two of the local males jumped naked into the cool lake water. Obviously the women had far more common sense.
We strolled back to the bar where the presentations were due to be held and where the band had already set up. Hansa certainly seemed to have a thirst as he popped in quickly and came back with more beer. We stood outside the bar for a while talking to the crowds and friends newly made. The bar was crowded as the results of the various competitions were announced. The tension was building for some, but we couldn’t hear a thing. Suddenly one of the organisers pressed his head and shoulders through the crowd and asked if we knew John Curtis. JC forced his way through the crowd and I was really pleased to see JC’s smile as he re-emerged from the barn clinging to his trophy for the longest distance. I was also very pleased to hear that Steve from Wimborne (Dorset) had won the longest distance travelled on a Meriden!
After the excitement we rested at the tables inside the marquee just outside the bar. Hansa and his Swedish friends were in full flow and despite my protests kept bringing more Porter. We sat with them and a very friendly Swedish chap (who we met the night before) and his Danish partner. He was embarrassed to explain that he fully intended to return to the bar to watch the sunrise; however after safely taking his girlfriend back to the tent, she tricked him!! This is the sort of thing Sam would do ‘for my own good!’ We talked until 2.00 am then headed back to the tent for a good nights kip.
- The campsite viewed from the booking-in area.
Day 5 – We were up early, had breakfast and packed the bikes ready for the trip home. We said our many goodbyes and carefully left the site on our way to Maribo, Denmark. We made good time travelling through Sweden and the weather held most of the way. We crossed the bridge back into Denmark and the clouds darkened. We passed Copenhagen getting closer to Maribo and the heavens opened. By the time we reached the campsite it was raining hard. We booked in, put the tents up and tried to get our kit into the tents as dry as possible. We showered and after returning to the tents covered ourselves the best way we could to walk down to the village for food. By the time we got there we were soaked. We found a Pizza house which was warm and dry, went in and were seated by a very beautiful young woman. We ordered and enjoyed a pleasant meal followed by coffee. The rain had stopped so we were able to take a pleasant stroll by the lake and back to the tents for a well deserved rest.
- At a rain-soaked Maribo campsite in Denmark.
Day 6 – The next morning started out dry, but as we started to take the tents down it rained heavily and persistently. We sheltered under some tall trees for a while but the rain kept coming. We had no choice, so packed everything up the best we could and jumped on the bikes and headed for the ferry and northern Germany. We saved travelling time by having breakfast on the boat and when we left Denmark it was still raining heavily!! After getting off the boat in Germany the skies cleared and we headed south to Melderslo on the Dutch/ German border, which was our scheduled resting place for the night. The weather improved the further south we went and the congestion around Hamburg and Bremen wasn’t too bad. We passed Munster and were getting closer to our resting place. I was counting down the miles and looking forward to parking the bike.
- At a rastplatz off the A1 autobahn, south of Bremen.
We pulled up at ‘DeToerstop’ in Melderslo and headed for the bar to sign in. Unfortunately it was closed!! We were assured that Henk and Teneke would be back shortly and therefore set about unloading the bikes. The weather was warm and the sun came out, so I put the tent, waterproofs and other saturated equipment on the wall by the swimming pool to dry. It probably looked like Widow Twanky’s washroom as I had stuff everywhere. JC had decided on an alternative method of drying his tent and simply put it up and let nature take its course. Teneke arrived back on site, so we entered the bar to book in. I judged that it would take about half an hour to dry my tent so we had a couple of small beers to pass the time. We then unpacked and repacked dry kit and I put my tent up. After a good shower we were ready for something hot to eat. Henk (the owner) is the chef and offered to make Chinese, we accepted the offer and eagerly awaited the food, while relaxing and reminiscing about the journey. We finished off the evening with a glass of Baileys and a hot coffee before heading for our dry tents!
Day 7 – The previous night we had decided to avoid breakfast and to head back for the Tunnel, in the hope that we could get an earlier train. I was keen to see my wife and old Great Dane and JC was also keen to get back after a week away. He also hoped to attend the club as we had a run to Shaftesbury that evening. We made good time and it remained dry for the rest of the trip. We stopped off for petrol and every stop took us about 100 miles closer to home. We arrived at the tunnel and caught an earlier train. The journey from the tunnel seemed to pass really quickly; we stopped for fuel at the infamous Clacket Lane Services on the M25 and stopped again at Fleet on the M3. We had a bite to keep us going and said farewell as our routes divided just further south on the M3.
It was certainly a challenging ride, but would I go again? Definitely, our hosts were really helpful and it was easy to make new friends with a common interest in Triumphs both new and old! My only regret was that Sam had to prioritise work and looking after Boston and didn’t make it.
It is a few weeks since I started writing this article and at the ripe old age of 11.5 years Boston sadly passed away last week. So perhaps Sam will make it next year although we may take the ferry to Esberg and cut out the long journey through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Well I’ve now attended 4 rallies and hope to attend the Concorde later this month. Who knows, I may even make the top twenty in the WATOC Challenge this year. I’ve had the Thruxton since may and covered 5,250miles and even put some miles on the old TR6, not too bad for this summer!